Below are reports on recent Club birding field trips starting with the most recent and working back.
Check the newsletters for more trip reports
Sunday, February 02 2020, Blue Mash Nature Trail, Laytonsville, MD
Leader: Mark England; Participants: 6; Weather: Overcast, temps. 36-41; Species: 30. This trip was offered in lieu of the previously-scheduled late afternoon trip to the Oaks Landfill, which had to be cancelled due to a temporary moratorium on access. There were two noisy Red-shouldered Hawks flying back-and-forth near the parking lot just before we set out. We flushed a huge group (250??) of Canada Geese as we approached the fence line view into the landfill pond, so we had no chance to try to relocate the recently-reported Cackling Goose. There was a lot of sparrow activity here-and-there, including numerous Field, Song, and White-throats, but nothing less common was seen. The Zion Road pond had a cooperative Belted Kingfisher, a hen Ring-necked Duck, and a mixed group of Bufflehead and Hooded Mergansers, in very good light, a nice sighting. After this we saw first an adult Bald Eagle, and two very dark looking eagles, which got us excited, but of course they turned out to be immature Bald Eagles once we were able so see some white on the underwings. Anyway, three Bald Eagles in close proximity at Blue Mash was most unusual. Later we had a well-seen Hermit Thrush perched in the open, and a nice group of Cedar Waxwings as we neared the parking lot at the end of the trip.
Sunday, January 12 2020, Black Hill Regional Park
Three persons joined leader Gerry Hawkins on a waterfowl focused field trip to Black Hill Regional Park and nearby Gunners Lake on Sunday, January 12, 2020. We saw 12 waterfowl species notwithstanding unseasonably warm weather and that we could not figure out how to get to the Route 121 bridge over Little Seneca Lake due to two road closures. Highlights at Black Hill RP included many Common and Hooded Mergansers, a small number of American Black Ducks and a Common Loon. There was more diversity at Gunners Lake, which contained many Ring-necked Ducks, seven Hooded Mergansers, five Ruddy Ducks, four Redheads, three Canvasbacks, two Buffleheads, one male Gadwall and one male Wood Duck. Non-waterfowl highlights included adult and immature Bald Eagles and an adult Red-tailed Hawk in overhead flight at Black Hill RP.
Saturday, January 11 2020, Redgate Park
Leader: Anne Mytych (with major help from Vicki Baily). Participants: 9, including leader. Weather: Overcast, Dry, upper 60s F. Total species: 31. This walk was to expose birders to a “new” park on a former golf course. We met at the parking lot at 8am and ended around 11:00am. We had a special guest – Cintia Cabib, a documentary filmmaker who filmed our walk for a project. We started at the twin ponds, which were quiet except for 4 Mallards, so we headed toward the sound of Blue Jays and saw a Red-Shouldered Hawk. Many areas where we expected sparrow activity were quiet. We finally hit pay dirt at the end of the morning near the small marsh pond at the front of the park. There was a flurry of activity with Field Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, White-Throated Sparrows, Carolina Wrens, Dark-Eyed Juncos, and American Goldfinchs. Two of the participants were lucky enough to see Rusty Blackbirds but they flew off quickly. We also saw a flock of 300 plus Red-Winged Blackbirds flyover. One participant also saw a Wood Duck flyover. The complete checklist from the walk can be viewed in eBird at https://ebird.org/checklist/S63268414
Wednesday, January 01 2020, Earliest Bird trip to Washington DC
Leader: Mike Bowen Participants: 14 Species: 44 Weather: Sunny and mild for the season: low to mid 40's Our club's customary trip to DC on New Year's Day turned up some quite special birds: a male Common Merganser at Georgetown Reservoir, a perched Red-shouldered Hawk nearby, an adult Red-tailed Hawk soaring over the U.S. Capitol, and best of all a beautiful Lark Sparrow, a Western stray, on the Capitol grounds. Some nice ducks at Constitution Gardens included Bufflehead, Ring-necked Duck, Northern Shoveler, Ruddy Duck and Gadwall. The U.S. Botanic Gardens yielded an impressive Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Yellow-rumped Warblers and a Swamp Sparrow. The Potomac off Hains Point held hundreds of Lesser Scaup. Many thanks to Gerry Hawkins for recording the eBird checklists and to Gerry and John Stinson for helping to drive the participants around DC.
Sunday, December 15 2019, Seneca Christmas Bird Count
As count compiler, I am pleased to report the results of the December 15, 2019 Seneca Christmas Bird Count (CBC).
The Seneca CBC has been conducted since 1955, but there are no published results for 1958, 1960, 1962, and 1966. So this year’s CBC was the 61st recorded. Each year, the count is done in a 15-mile diameter count circle, centered at Violette’s Lock on the C&O Canal, and includes areas of Montgomery, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties. The count circle is divided into 16 sectors (5 in Virginia – Sectors 12-16 -- comprising about 40% of the circle, and 11 in Maryland – Sectors 1-11 -- covering the other 60%).
For this year’s count we had 170 people participating -- 157 people counted in the field and 19 people counted as feeder watchers. (The 170 total participating is lower than adding the two categories together because some folks served two roles, counting in the field earlier in the day and then also contributing a feeder/yard count from their home later in the day.) This is the highest number of participants ever since the Seneca CBC started in 1955. I was pleased to have many new folks join our veteran counters in both the Virginia and Maryland sectors.
We had much better weather this year. Veterans of last year’s count will recall that count day in 2018 was rainy and followed on the heels of torrential rains the day before which resulted in flooded roads and trails throughout our count circle. This kept many of our teams from reaching areas they usually count, and the rain during the day on count day affected both the numbers of birds we saw and our ability to see and hear birds. The better weather this year had a significant positive impact on the results of the count.
I really appreciate everyone who went out to do the count this year. Through our combined efforts, we tallied 99 species on December 15 with 3 additional species that eluded all of us on count day but were found in our count circle during “count week” (the period from December 12 through December 18). The 99 species on count day is well above the 96 median of the previous 10 years (“10-year median”), and above the 93.6 average of the previous 60 counts. The combined total species count of 102 is well above the 10-year median of 98. We tallied 27,688 individual birds, just above the 10-year median of 26,310.
I have attached, as a PDF document, the spread sheet showing the results of the count by sector, with sector totals at the bottom and count circle totals at the far right (“cw” in the “Total” column designates a species reported during the “count week” but not officially tallied by our counters on December 15th). I have adjusted the final totals for Bald Eagles and Common Ravens for the count circle to eliminate duplication within and among sectors where I was able to determine the same birds likely were seen two or more times. Even after those adjustments, we had new high totals for both these species which are becoming more common on the CBC.
Here are the highlights of this year’s Seneca CBC:
Warm fall weather is becoming a trend in the mid-Atlantic and to our north, and this influences the species diversity and numbers of individual birds of certain species present in mid-December when we do the Seneca CBC. This year we didn’t see some usual winter visitors, probably because they were happily staying north of us, and this was not a northern finch invasion year.
I like to start with the unusual birds that turn up for the Seneca CBC. The biggest news this year is an adult female Rufous Hummingbird that was identified and banded at a Maryland feeder in the count circle by a licensed hummingbird bander during count week. It was probably present on count day, but since it was not officially identified and tallied that day, it goes down as a count week species. If accepted by our regional reviewer, this western species will bring the Seneca CBC all-time total species count ("count-day" plus "count-/week-only" species over the 61 counts) to 173. Our all-time count-day species total will remain at 168.
Not new to the count, but very unusual, is the second-ever Laughing Gull (previous bird was tallied in 2000) in Sector 3/4 in Maryland, on a rock in the Potomac next to a much-larger Herring Gull. In a year that has not had a southern movement of winter finches, very unexpected was a Common Redpoll making a brief visit to a feeder in Sector 7 in Maryland, only the third time on a Seneca CBC. In addition, we had a repeat of two unusual species (and most likely the same birds). A male Eurasian Wigeon was found in the same location as on the 3 previous Seneca CBCs in Sector 6 in Maryland, and 3 Sandhill Cranes were seen in Sector 7 in Maryland. These three birds then flew off to the south and were seen immediately after that landing in the Algonkian Nature Preserve in Sector 16 in Virginia. The two adults and a first-year bird are very likely the pair seen on the 3 previous Seneca CBCs joined this year by their probable offspring. Other relatively rare birds on the count were a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in Sector 6 in Maryland, only the 11th time and first since 2004, and a Pine Warbler in Sector 9 in Maryland, also the 11th time and first since 2011.
We also had many interesting highs and lows of other species.
We had five new all-time high counts for the Seneca CBC: Double-crested Cormorant, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, and Common Raven.
Other significant high counts (looking at the last ten years or more of data for this CBC) are for Common Goldeneye (highest since 2005 and way above the 10-year median of 1), Common Merganser (second highest ever), Wild Turkey (4th highest ever), Barred Owl (second highest since 2006), Red-headed Woodpecker (highest since 1981 and 2nd highest ever), Peregrine Falcon (tied for highest with 2014), Eastern Phoebe (highest since 2002), American Crow (highest since 2008 and well above 10-year median of 1876), Fish Crow (3rd highest ever), Horned Lark (highest since 1986), Carolina Wren (well above the 10-year median of 442), Hermit Thrush (highest since 2005), American Robin (second highest in the last 10 years and well above10-year median of 909), Cedar Waxwing (highest since 2007), House Sparrow (highest since 2006), House Finch (2nd highest in last 10 years), Eastern Towhee (highest since 1974 and 2nd highest ever), Red-winged Blackbird (highest since 2007 and well above 10-year median of 382), and Rusty Blackbird (highest since 2012).
On the other end of the spectrum are the low counts. Looking back 10 years or more (which includes the rescheduled 2009 count day when we had experienced a very heavy snow and last year’s rain event), there are several surprising low counts. Water birds are always variable since birds can stay north if the early winter is warmer and there is still open water. This year most water birds were at or above the usual numbers except for: Canada Goose (3rd lowest since 1984 and well below 10-year median of 3266), Mallard (lowest since 2009), Ring-billed Gull (lowest since 1985), and Great Blue Heron (2nd lowest since 2005). Other expected winter visitors came in low as well: Golden-crowned Kinglet (2nd lowest since 1985), Brown Creeper (3rd lowest in the last 10 years), Winter Wren (3rd lowest in the last 10 years), and American Pipit (well below 10-year median of 11). Notable low sparrow counts were Field Sparrow (2nd lowest since 1963), Dark-eyed Junco (lowest since 1961), White-crowned Sparrow (4th lowest since 1961), White-throated Sparrow (3rd lowest since 1970), and Savannah Sparrow (lowest since 2010). Of particular interest is significant lows in our year-round resident species: Mourning Dove (lowest since 1981), Downy Woodpecker (3rd lowest in last 10 years), American Kestrel (2nd lowest ever), Carolina Chickadee (2nd lowest since 1969), Tufted Titmouse (2nd lowest since 1977), White-breasted Nuthatch (2nd lowest since 2004), European Starling (lowest since 1963), Northern Mockingbird (3rd lowest since 1963), Brown-headed Cowbird (well below10-year median of 59), and Common Grackle (well below 10-year median of 70). And finally, the zero counts for winter visitors who didn’t come this year: Horned Grebe (found on 31 previous counts), American Coot (found on 42 previous counts), Red-breasted Nuthatch (found on 46 previous counts), and Pine Siskin found on 33 previous counts).
Once again this year, we see the importance of having many sets of eyes in the field in a variety of habitats, with 16 species found in only one sector, and, of those, 9 species represented by sightings of only a single bird. The value of geographic diversity is shown by the 7 species found only in our Virginia sectors and the 14 species found only in Maryland sectors.
And now let’s look back for a little historical perspective. We’ve come a long way since the first Seneca CBC in 1955 which tallied 32 species and 1,305 individual birds on count day. All the 60 subsequent reported counts have had more species on the count day, and only one has had fewer total individual birds on count day. Twenty species have been tallied on all 61 Seneca CBCs, and 11 more have been tallied on 60 Seneca CBCs. At the other extreme, 11 species have been tallied on only one Seneca CBC.
I hope you will be able to join us for the 2020 count. Save the date – Sunday, December 20, a little later than the last few years because of the annual CBC count parameters.
Let me know if you have any questions about the count or the results.
Monday, December 09 2019, Cambridge, Md. Waterfront and Blackwater NWR
Leader: Mark England; Participants: 13; Weather: Sunny with little wind—a great day for a bird trip! Species: 50 for main group; 5 more for late-stayers.
We met as usual at 9 am. at the Sailwinds Visitor Center just across the Choptank River in Cambridge, where we had exceptional looks at close Long-tailed Ducks and Surf Scoters, as well as the three common gull species, Buffleheads, Ruddy Ducks, and DC Cormorants. At Oakley Street, photographers had to be pried away from the close Canvasbacks, American Widgeons, Lesser Scaup, and one Redhead. We picked up a hen Goldeneye at Marsh Point but little else. After a stop at the Goose Creek Store, we headed down Egypt Road, but found it less birdy than usual. Eventually we got lucky when a flock of brownish songbirds descended into a corn-stubble field, and they turned out to be mostly American Pipits, with at least one verified Horned Lark as well. For the first time ever, there were no kestrels on either Egypt Rd. or Key Wallace Drive! On the Blackwater Refuge Wildlife Drive, we had brief glimpses of fast-moving Brown-headed Nuthatches, a Fox Sparrow, three heard-only Clapper Rails near the boardwalk Observation Platform, Yellow-rumps and one Pine Warbler seen by a few, close-in Tundra Swans and American White Pelicans, Forster’s Terns, and numerous Bald Eagles. We added Northern Pintails, Northern Shovelers, and Black Ducks to our lengthy waterfowl list, and most of us headed back around 3:45 pm. Die-hards Andy Martin, Diane Ford, and Bob Cantilli, made the 15-minute drive over to the superb marsh at Bestpitch Ferry Bridge, and were rewarded near dusk with a distant perched Short-eared Owl, four Northern Harriers, an American Kestrel, and a well-seen Virginia Rail that fluttered out onto a mudflat.
Monday, November 11 2019, Sparrow Walk, Redgate Park
A dozen birders convened for the annual Veterans Day sparrow hunt, with the venue changed from Blue Mash to Redgate, a recently abandoned golf course in Rockville. Weather was ideal, mild and not windy. Sparrows, though, were slow to emerge; for the first hour the famously hoppin’ pond-side bushes and reeds remained unnaturally quiet. Eventually the park’s scenic hills and vales yielded six sparrow species among the 30 we found—Chipping, Field, White-throated, Song, Swamp, and Savannah--with touches of color added by bluebirds and Palm Warblers. Lydia Schindler and Linda Friedland
Sunday, November 03 2019, Oaks Landfill, Laytonsville
Leader: Mark England; Participants: 13; Weather: Sunny with little wind—a beautiful fall day!; Species: 39. We started by driving down to the pond which is also visible from Blue Mash, hoping to maybe find a Cackling Goose among the hundreds of Canada’s, before they took flight. We had no luck in that endeavor, but after the geese had gone, we saw a mixed group of six Gadwall, two American Black Ducks, and a lone female Green-winged Teal. Recent rains had refilled the entire pond, so, except for two Killdeer, the excellent shorebirds variously seen in September and October had gone. While at the pond, we had a flyover group of 33 Cedar Waxwings and picked up a nearby juvenile White-crowned Sparrow. We later added six more sparrows, including well-seen Savannah’s and Swamp. It was well into the trip before we saw our first raptor, a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk, but soon after we added 3-4 Red-tails, a male Kestrel, two Bald Eagles some distance off, and juvenile Cooper’s Hawk and Northern Harrier, surprisingly the only harrier of the morning. It was a fun trip in great weather!
Sunday, October 06 2019, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens – Kenilworth Park, DC
Leaders: Mike Bowen and Gerry Hawkins; 17 other participants Weather: Mild and overcast, with some challenging viewing conditions due to poor light Species count: 47 Highlights: Perched female Merlin -- the “Bird of the Day” -- and a stunningly close Savannah Sparrow, both in KP and both well captured by our photographers. We also had a perched Cooper’s Hawk. Chimney Swift numbers we estimated at 175, American Robins at 250 and European Starlings at an impressive 500, which may have been on the low side. There were mercifully few Canada Geese, two flybys of Double-Crested Cormorants, a dozen Mallard and a flyover by 3 drake Wood Ducks. 5 Great Egrets and a Great Blue Heron were feeding in the shallow pools at KAG. Sparrows were a little harder to find than the leaders had expected, but we did see Song, Swamp, the KP Savannah, and (first of the fall season for many) a rather shy White-throated Sparrow. We did not do well with warblers, some of which “got away” but we did i.d. Yellowthroat, Parula, Magnolia, (Yellow) Palm Warbler, and a couple of early “Yellow-rumps.” A late Scarlet Tanager was unfortunately not seen by everyone. The eBird checklist for the trip can be found at: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S60398263
Friday, October 04 2019, Little Bennett Regional Park
Leader: Gemma Radko. Participants: 3 I was joined by Ed and Karen Escalante; we walked the Kingsley Schoolhouse Trail and parts of the Wilson Mill trail, from 7:30 AM to around 10:45 AM. Finally some fall-like weather! We had 33 species total, including a smattering of winter arrivals (Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Ruby-crowned Kinglet) and 9 warbler species, including Black-and-white, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Black-throated Blue and Green, Magnolia, Cape May, Chestnut-sided, and Pine.
Saturday, September 28 2019, Croydon Creek Nature Center
Co-Leaders: Anne Mytych & Emily Huang. Participants: 17, including co-leaders. Weather: Overcast, Dry, 68 -75 F. Total species: 34. This walk was to expose birders to a MC hidden gem. We met at the nature center parking lot at 7:30am and ended around 10:30am. We started at the feeders, which had a flurry of activity, especially in the vines behind the feeders. We saw a Canada Warbler, Blue-Headed Vireo, Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, Common Yellowthroat & Black-and-White Warbler, along with the usual feeder birds. We headed down the trail, along the stream and came out into the open field, where we got another flurry of activity, including Chimney Swifts overhead, dozens of American Robins, Red-Eyed Vireos, a Cedar Waxwing, Ovenbirds, multiple woodpeckers, a couple of quiet flycatchers, and we heard a Veery give his “veer” call but did not get eyes on him. The complete checklist from the walk can be viewed in eBird at https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S60173492
Sunday, September 22 2019, Pennyfield to Violette’s “Bird Stalk”
Leader: Jim Nelson. Participants: 13, including leader. Weather: Sunny, 65 -83 F. Total species: 38. This walk is for folks who generally cannot get out as early. We met at Violette’s Lock at 9:00, carpooled down to Pennyfield Lock, and walked upstream along the C&O Canal towpath back to Violette’s, ending after noon. The total species count was close to last year’s rainy walk, but with a very different species mix. Our hot, dry September affected the presence of migrants -- only one warbler, one vireo, and no tanagers, thrushes, or orioles. The second impoundment was nearly dry but gave us 2 good shorebirds – Least and Pectoral Sandpipers – as well as a Great Egret, a Green Heron, and a Great Blue Heron putting on a remarkable demonstration as it processed and then consumed a not-so-small snapping turtle. Other highlights were a Spotted Sandpiper, a low kettle of Broad-winged Hawks accompanied by a Red-shouldered and a Northern Harrier, an Osprey, a Bald Eagle, and two very vocal and active Red-headed Woodpeckers as we approached Violette’s Lock. The complete checklist from the walk, including photos of the Great Blue Heron eating the turtle, can be viewed in eBird at https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S60027961
Sunday, September 15 2019, Rock Creek Park – Beginner’s Bird Walk
Leader: Clive Harris. The leader and 5 participants met at the Nature Center at 7AM sharp. After a short interval to equip everyone with binoculars, and to make sure everyone knew the basics of working them we started looking for migrants. It was not the best day at Rock Creek, as it was slightly overcast first thing – if its sunny then the birds come straight to the trees hit first by the sun – and the winds had not been favorable for migrants either. We did find American Redstart and Black-and-White Warbler, as well as many robins in the trees by the center. After about half an hour, in which time we’d all developed “warbler neck” we headed on down to the Maintenance Yard. The Yard itself was quiet when we got there – we discovered we’d just missed a modest “wave”. But the parking lot was very productive with nice views of Veery feeding on berries, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Red-eyed Vireo. Heading back to our starting point we had two Yellow-throated Vireos counter-singing, and got great views of one of them. A quick check of the Dog Run turned up a Common Yellowthroat bringing our species total to 28. Not many birds but most of the participants got a few lifers.
Thursday, September 05 2019, Wheaton Regional Park
On Sept. 5 we met at 7:00 am in the Shorefield Road “carousel” parking lot at Wheaton Regional Park. Including the leaders, we were a group of ten and picked up two more interested birders as we went along. As is often the case during the fall migration, Wheaton has quite a few species to offer and today was no exception in spite of an overcast sky. The strip of trees at the back of the parking lot not having been very productive this fall, we moved fairly quickly to what is often called the meadow; that is, the grass near the blue bird boxes which has shorter trees. Right away, the tall dead trees to the left of the meadow rewarded us with two perched adult Red-shouldered Hawks, a Baltimore Oriole, a female Scarlet Tanager and a lone Cedar Waxwing in addition to the usual American Robins, Northern Flickers, Mourning Doves, etc. Scott Young’s camera was invaluable in helping identify birds in the poor light. The scattered shorter trees in the meadow were active with Black and White Warblers, American Redstarts, a Magnolia, a Chestnut- sided, and at least one Blackburnian Warbler as well as Chickadees and Red-eyed Vireos. Finally we left this area and went to Pine Lake. It was not quite as active here but there were several Common Yellowthroats, a Green Heron, a Belted Kingfisher, and inside the woods a Northern Parula. Our usual Mallards and Wood Ducks were unaccountably missing. We ended the walk about 10:00, having seen 47 species, 7 of which were warblers. Scott added several great photos to the list.
Saturday, July 06 2019, Oaks Landfill, Laytonsville
Leader: Mark England. Participants: 21, plus leader. Species: 37. Weather: 70’s at the 6:45 am. start, but high-80’s when we left about 9:30. Sunny and clear. This was a second early morning trip to the landfill searching for summer breeders. We saw side-by-side male Indigo Bunting and Blue Grosbeak early on in great light, which was a nice comparison sighting. We had close looks at three Willow Flycatchers, male and female Orchard Orioles, a Brown Thrasher, and two Eastern Kingbirds, but we again had no Dickcissels or Grasshopper Sparrows, which had been seen a few times in June, but were no longer around. The presumed same female Wood Duck seen the week before, now had two young in the large pond, and there were a few each Green and Great Blue Herons. When we got out of the cars at the tarp-lined leachate ponds we found four Killdeer, 3 Spotted Sandpipers, and a surprising Lesser Yellowlegs, easily the best bird of the morning.
Saturday, June 29 2019, Oaks Landfill, Laytonsville
Joint MBC/ANS trip. Leader: Mark England. Participants: 16, plus leader. Species: 27 seen and 5 heard only. Weather: 70’s at the 6:45 am. start, but mid-80’s when we left about 9:15. Sunny and clear. After using the restrooms and organizing carpools, we got underway about 7 am., hoping to see and hear birds before the predicted 90-degree heat set in. We found singing male Indigo Bunting and Blue Grosbeak early on, and noted numerous Common Yellowthroats and Red-winged Blackbirds as we drove around. We had good looks at a nesting Willow Flycatcher, Brown Thrasher, and Eastern Kingbird in the blackberry tangles at the top of the hill, but the two male Dickcissels that had appeared in early June were not heard, and are presumed to have left the landfill. We had no luck with Grasshopper Sparrows either, though the leader had seen glimpses of them previously. There were Barn and Tree Swallows roosting together on a fence near the leachate ponds, and we found a semi-concealed female Wood Duck on the far side of the big pond, along with four Killdeer and a Great Blue Heron.
Sunday, May 12 2019, Rock Creek Park Nature Center Area
Six persons and for most of the time two regular Rock Creek Park birders joined leader Gerry Hawkins on a field trip to the Rock Creek Park Nature Center area on Sunday, May 12. Birds and birders apparently were deterred by a steady rain on Mother’s Day but our cheerful group hung in there for about three hours of early morning birding following our 6:30 a.m. start time. Highlights during the adverse conditions included a calling Least Flycatcher, a Gray-cheeked Thrush preening on a low perch for an extended period, a singing Swainson’s Thrush, two Veeries, a small flock of Cedar Waxwings perched at close range, a calling Barred Owl, a singing Scarlet Tanager and nine species of warbler, which included several Cape May Warblers, a Louisiana Waterthrush, two Chestnut-sided Warblers and two Blackpoll Warblers. Local residents also provided some excitement during the walk as we observed a Downy Woodpecker visiting a tree cavity and a family of Carolina Wrens. Rock Creek Park rarely disappoints even during adverse weather and a slow day for migrant activity.
Saturday, May 11 2019, Little Bennett Regional Park
Leaders: Woody & Rae Dubois. We had a cool, overcast morning with miraculously, no rain. After meeting with the nine participants at the Wilson’s Mill Trail parking lot, we slowly birded the meadow, listening to a Prairie Warbler, Towhees, Common Yellowthroats, Chipping and Field Sparrows. A Sharp-shinned Hawk cruised over. Entering the woods, we listened for the Kentucky Warbler, but unfortunately, had no luck. There were Parulas, Wood Thrushes and a couple of Redstarts. The highlight of the morning appeared in this area -everyone got good looks at two Red-headed Woodpeckers inspecting a hole in a large snag. Woody and I had also seen them there the day before so they may be getting serious about this location. This spring is the first time we have seen them in Little Bennett.
After making the loop to the Western Piedmont Trail and back to the highway, we crossed over to the Kingsley Trail and walked to the school house and back, listening to Indigo Buntings, Red-eyed Vireos, and one Yellow-throated Vireo that Bob Cantilli was the first to hear. There were many Ovenbirds but on the whole, warblers were very thin in number. We saw a Black and White, heard one Black-throated Blue, and saw two Common Yellowthroats nest building. Our final total was 43 species.
Sunday, May 05 2019, Izaak Walton League, B-CC Chapter, Conservation Farm
Leader: Jim Nelson. Participants: 7 intrepid souls. Weather: Due to the heavy rain forecast for the morning, we moved the start time to 1:00 pm. Even so, we still had persistent rain for the entire walk, ranging from moderate to light with temperatures in the low 60’s. Thanks to B-CC IWLA member Diane Seward, our group once again enjoyed access to this prime private property near Poolesville with a great mix of habitats. Larry Anderson, another B-CC IWLA member, again acted as our escort. The rain presented challenges and gave us a much lower species count and many fewer individual birds because the birds were not very active or vocal, and, even if they moved or sang, the rain made it hard to see them or hear them. Overall we tallied 35 species observed by at least one participant, well behind last year's 58 and our previous average of 57.4. Many of our birds were heard only, and not everyone got to see or hear each species. We had only 4 species of warbler -- Common Yellowthroat, Chestnut-sided, Black and White, and Prairie– and also missed some other expected migrant species including both oriole species, most flycatchers, and some expected sparrrows. Best bird of the day was a beautiful male Summer Tanager which got our attention just as we were starting with its diagnostic "pikitukituk" call. Other good finds included a Wild Turkey, Wood Ducks, Blue Grosbeaks, Scarlet Tanagers, and Great-crested Flycatchers, and singing Grasshopper, Field, and Chipping Sparrows. The total eBird species list for this “hot spot” now stands at 135 species with the Wood Duck, Summer Tanager, and Blue Grosbeak added on this trip. The eBird checklist for this walk can be viewed at https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55866795
Friday, May 03 2019, Birding by Ear at Hughes Hollow
Leader: Paul Woodward. Participants: 6 plus leader. Weather: 62°, overcast, calm. Heavy rain the previous day flooded the large impoundment and high water prevented us from walking to the fields. As usual, we walked the main dike and then circled the dog training area. We ended up with a total of 30 species, perhaps best finds were an adult Yellow-crowned Night Heron flying over and a calling Barred Owl. Ironically, considering the theme of the walk, there was not much singing and there were few migrants. An advantage of having few singing birds was we could study their songs more closely. These cooperating birds included Great Crested Flycatchers, Yellow-throated Vireos, Tree Swallows, Orchard Orioles, and Prothonotary Warblers. Two Northern Waterthrush sang but only briefly. Less cooperating were the White-eyed Vireo, Eastern Kingbird, and Yellow Warbler.
Sunday, April 28 2019, Occoquan Bay NWR
Weather: cloudy and fairly cool. Species: 66. Highlights of a field trip to Occoquan Bay NWR in Prince William Co, VA, on April 28, 2019 co-led by Mike Bowen and Gerry Hawkins with ten participants included splendid views of Prairie, Prothonotary and Yellow Warblers, each of which breeds at Occoquan. Indeed, we were thrilled to watch a Yellow Warbler visit a nest several times. During the trip we also encountered several of each of Palm Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Common Yellowthroat and Northern Waterthrush. A Lincoln’s Sparrow was a standout in the sparrow department and 3 Orchard Orioles in the blackbird/oriole department. White-eyed Vireos are normally quite easy to hear but difficult to see, but several were quite conspicuous, much to the delight of our group’s keen photographers. The photographers also rejoiced in the opportunity to capture images of a couple of nicely teed-up Rusty Blackbirds. Up to four King Rails were heard calling loudly along Easy Rd.; our group missed seeing one by only a matter of minutes. In the same part of the marsh, a Marsh Wren was heard singing loudly. Out in the bay we spied two Common Loons in breeding plumage, 6 female Red-breasted Mergansers, a Ring-necked Duck, several Bonaparte’s Gulls in flight and standing on a sand bar and four Caspian Terns together in flight. Ospreys were seen and heard throughout the refuge, and Bald Eagles were seen perched and in flight at several places; our route through the trails was restricted to avoid disturbing a nesting pair along Charlie Rd. Raptor highlights also included a Cooper’s Hawk in flight, and in the sky nearby two adult Red-tailed Hawks harassing a Bald Eagle in flight. A highlight on our return trip was hearing a dueting pair of Barred Owls on one side of Easy Road and another calling Barred Owl on the other side of this road, for a total of three individuals heard at one time. Other ubiquitous species included Tree Swallows and (especially) masses of northbound Blue Jays. The timing of our MBC trip this year was a little too early for Yellow-breasted Chats, which breed at the refuge but which had not yet returned from the south.
Saturday, April 20 2019, Blue Mash and Oaks Landfill
Leader: Mark England. Participants: 15, plus leader. Species: 47. Weather: 50’s and overcast at the start, clearing and windy later. Early on we had gray skies with a few sprinkles, and distant birds were mostly identified by “silhouette birding”. But the skies cleared later and Blue Mash was thankfully not the quagmire we feared after the previous day’s rain. Several Eastern Towhees were singing from the highest parts of trees, broadcasting their songs, and Common Yellowthroats were numerous, but they were the only seen warbler. Some in the group heard Northern Parula and Prairie Warblers, and at least one Ovenbird. We mostly had year-round residents at Blue Mash, but also saw Tree and Barn Swallows, a migrating group of 25 cormorants, Green Heron, Cooper’s Hawk, and a surprising pair of Common Ravens, calling as they flew by. At the Oaks Landfill, we had a Sharp-shinned Hawk, a female American Kestrel, Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, two female Bufflehead, three Greater Yellowlegs, an Eastern Kingbird, and two adult Bald Eagles at the very end, a nice way to end the trip.
Sunday, April 07 2019, Hughes Hollow
Leader: Jim Nelson. Participants: 19. Weather: Overcast, then gradually clearing, temps started at 46 rising to about 68 by the end. Species: 52. We had a nice variety of bird species, and the total was just one less than last year’s trip. The highlight of the trip was an eagle seen near the end of the trip soaring in the company of Turkey Vultures and hawks. The trip leader identified it as an immature Bald Eagle, what we would expect in this area. Driving home, something about the bird didn't sit right, and, after consulting several bird guides at home, he quickly concluded we had seen an adult Golden Eagle rather than a Bald Eagle. Other birds of note included good views of at least 4 different Red-headed Woodpeckers, calling Barred Owl, Northern Rough-winged, Tree, and Barn Swallows, Brown Creeper, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, both kinglet species, a singing Hermit Thrush, two Brown Thrashers, lots of yellow Palm Warblers, a bright Pine Warbler, Chipping, Field, and Swamp Sparrows, a singing male Eastern Towhee. Waterfowl included Blue-winged Teal, Wood Duck, American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck, Hooded Merganser, Great Blue Heron, Double-crested Cormorant, American Coot, and calling Pied-bill Grebes. The eBird checklist for the trip can be viewed at https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S54679289 .
Thursday, March 14 2019, Informal Late Afternoon Bird Walks
Yesterday afternoon Jim Green led his final joint Audubon Naturalist Society//Montgomery Bird Club trip. We started at Riley’s Lock then proceeded to Hughes Hollow and Sycamore Landing Rd.
We were at Riley’s Lock for only about 40 minutes. Due to the nice day there were multiple boats on the river which had scattered most of the waterfowl. On top of that 20-25 mph winds came through while we were there as well. We saw a Red-breasted Merganser near the VA shore and 2 Green-winged Teal fly downriver. The highlight here was an adult Bald Eagle that twice flew directly over our heads. We moved on to Hughes Hollow where we saw Ring-Necked Ducks, American Wigeon, Lesser Scaup and had great looks at Blue-winged Teal. The Pied-billed Grebe was once again heard but not seen. Tree Swallows we’re back in full force. We estimated there were 20 flying over the impoundments. An Eastern Phoebe and a Swamp Sparrow were present. As we were walking back to the parking lot Gemma Radko proved to us that she still has her “ears” as she heard a Woodcock “peent” twice. The Canvasback was seen on our way out in the back pond. We spent some time on Sycamore Landing Road hoping for Red-headed Woodpeckers. We heard one in the distance but none were seen. The American Woodcocks continued their dismal showing of two nights ago despite the much more favorable weather (60+ degrees F). One bird flew by us - we then heard 3-4 “peents” and that was it. Never heard this bird go up in flight either. Even the Barred Owls were quiet for the most part. We only heard one hooting during the 30 minutes or so we were standing in the field. We did hear and briefly see a Brown Thrasher initially sounding just like a snorting deer. 17 people started the trip and 14 finished. Thanks to all those who came out on Tuesday & Thursday.
Tuesday, March 12 2019, Informal Late Afternoon Bird Walks
Jim Green led a joint ANS//MBC trip. We met on the bridge at Rileys Lock/C&O Canal. We then hit Hughes Hollow and finished at Sycamore Landing Rd.
At Riley’s Lock we saw the 3 continuing Red-throated Loons, Horned Grebes, Red-breasted Mergansers and Bufflehead. Down at Violette’s Lock there were over 100 Ring-billed Gulls and 6 Double-crested Cormorants. A walk up the towpath was unsuccessful in locating any Evening Grosbeaks. A Brown Creeper let us know that some winter birds are still around and a quiet Eastern Phoebe let us know that spring is finally approaching.
At Hughes Hollow there were easily over 200 Ring-necked Ducks and 20 American Wigeon. A single Pied-billed Grebe was seen and also heard giving it’s unique call. A Canvasback and Common Goldeneye-both unusual for this location-continued since last week. A few in the group briefly saw 2 Blue-winged Teal in flight. An Eastern Phoebe was seen here as well along with a Swamp Sparrow.
On to Sycamore Landing field where we were disappointed by the lack of American Woodcock display. A single bird flew by us and (assuming it was the same bird) gave some distant “peents” but was never heard going up in flight to continue its display. Our lone highlight here was a sighting of a perched Barred Owl and hearing at least 3 others calling and hooting. It was 42 degrees F when we were listening for the woodcocks. 14 participants started the trip and 9 finished.
Other notes...Since River Road is closed near the temple we had to detour around taking Partnership then Sugarland then Hughes Roads to get to Hughes Hollow. During our caravan there one driver saw 2 Wild Turkeys and another car’s passenger saw one of the lingering Sandhills Cranes in the cornfield opposite the polo fields. Two others met us at Sycamore Landing Road and earlier had 3 Red-headed Woodpeckers between the two bridges.
Sunday, February 24 2019, Oaks Landfill, Laytonsville, Md.
Leader: Mark England. Participants: 22, plus leader; Weather: Mid-50’s, with sun breaking through later in the walk. The predicted very high winds over 40 mph. held off till the end of the trip; Species: About 28, including some sparrows seen by only a few. The late-afternoon trip started well, with an adult Bald Eagle circling over the adjacent Blue Mash Golf Course. After consolidating into carpools, we headed down to the big pond and enjoyed close views of many Ring-necked Ducks, several Canvasbacks and Bufflehead, and a few Lesser Scaup. A few Gadwall flushed before we could view them, unfortunately. Dave Powell found a Great Blue Heron high in a distant tree, an interesting find. We had excellent views of a perched Savannah Sparrow in full sunlight, and there were Swamp and Fox Sparrows seen by a very few, as well as the usual Song and White-throats. The leader’s stakeout spot for White-crowned Sparrows yielded one adult nicely perched for a few minutes. By 5 pm., we had surprisingly not seen a Northern Harrier, which was odd considering the high number that had been at the landfill since late fall, but we had repeated looks at both Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, probably 3 or 4 of each. We went to the top of the hill about 5:15 hoping to see harriers at least, but saw a Wilson’s Snipe instead, spotted in flight by Byron Swift. We then drove to the lower end of the landfill, where raptors are usually scarce, and were met by a blizzard of birds, including a male harrier, four Short-eared Owls (possibly flushed by the harrier, or by us), and a close flyby Merlin. The four Short-eared Owls were the most seen at the landfill this winter, and a male and female soon perched about 50 yards away which allowed for a good scope comparison between the lighter male and the darker, streakier female. About 5:45, the predicted high winds materialized, and we attempted to find some Rusty Blackbirds in their usual night roost, but there no birds in those bushes at all. We then headed back to the parking lot, pausing for five minutes to view a perched male Merlin, a nice conclusion to the trip.
Wednesday, February 06 2019, Blue Mash
Leader, Stephanie Lovell. Weather, 44°. steel gray clouds with an occasional shaft of watery sun. Two new members joined me to check out what was around at Blue Mash. It has been some time since I've been there, and I was surprised to see several blow downs right in the first path off the entry road. Everything was very quiet, not many sparrow chips to be heard. The first pond being shallow was of course frozen over, not a duck in sight. Across the entry road along the fence line the path was VERY mucky, lots of melted water and mud. They've also cut down a lot of the brush along the fence line where the Mocking Birds and sparrows congregate; there were some, Song and White-throat popping in and out of the brush that was left. The big deeper pond was also frozen over, so no ducks there either. We crossed the first dip through a frozen stream and headed to the upper corner. Along the way were more White-throated and Song Sparrows, Cardinals and Mocking birds. As we rounded the corner we saw a Red-tailed Hawk sitting on a branch, but he saw us too and took off. Shortly after we heard crows making a ruckus and the hawk flew past chased by three loud crows. Something new, starting at the gate they have laid down a thick coat of pine and chips all along the path and even installed a pair of pipes over the dip we always had to wade through. The new road was scraped all the way past the lake and to the trees, where again, pipes have been laid down over the dip in road out to the parking lot.
Not many sightings, other than the usual winter birds, but a nice walk and welcome surprises in improvements to the paths. Seen or heard: Chickadee-Cardinal-Towhee-Song and White-throated Sparrows- Juncos-Red tail Hawk-Red shouldered Hawk-Canada Geese- Mocking Bird-Red-bellied Woodpecker- Downy Woodpecker- Flicker
Saturday, February 02 2019, Oaks Landfill, Laytonsville, Md.
Leader: Mark England; Participants: 21 plus leader; Weather: Very nice, with clear skies and temps. in the 40’s; Species: Only 19, but plentiful raptors! We met at 3:30 pm. for this late afternoon visit to the landfill. While standing around and trying to arrange the carpools, a fast-moving Merlin zipped by, the first of many raptors we were to see. At our first stop, we had a distant flying Cooper’s Hawk, and a nicely-perched adult Red-shouldered Hawk, and the first of our many Northern Harrier sightings during the trip. There were either 3 or 4 harriers seen during the afternoon, including two handsome “gray ghosts”. We had multiple sightings of Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, both adult and immature. While on top of the landfill hill around 5 pm., Scott Young identified of about 15 Rusty Blackbirds in some blackberry bushes, mixed in with many Red-winged Blackbirds, and shortly after that some in the group were noticed looking high overhead. The word was passed back that there was a Short-eared Owl directly above, at least 400 feet in the air, and once we got on it, we noticed that the owl (a bright white male) was skirmishing with a much darker bird--a female harrier. It was a remarkable sight, and the SEOW was a life bird for some in the group. This same owl gradually descended and hid somewhere in the grass, later to come out and hunt near sundown, giving good views to all. With our heads on a raptor-watching swivel, we didn’t look too hard for songbirds, but there were a few sparrow species recorded by some, the best of them White-crowned and Savannah, though few of each.
Saturday, January 26 2019, Black Hill RP and Gunners Lake
Four persons eventually joined leader Gerry Hawkins on a waterbird-focused field trip to Black Hill RP on Saturday, January 26, which was rescheduled from Sunday, January 21 due to inclement weather. We started at the Visitors Center at Black Hill RP, and went from there directly to the Route 121 bridge across Little Seneca Lake because the road to the boat launch area in Black Hill RP was closed. Eager to see more and closer views of waterfowl, subsequently three of us visited nearby Gunners Lake. Waterbird highlights at Black Hill RP and the Route 121 bridge included a family of four Tundra Swans, American Wigeon, Common Goldeneyes, including a couple of spectacular males, Canvasbacks, Redheads, Buffleheads, Hooded Mergansers and at least 100 Common Mergansers. Here we also saw several Pied-billed Grebes but no other grebe species. Non-waterbird highlights included a continuing apparent pair of adult Bald Eagles and a Common Raven carrying something in its bill as it flew directly above us while we were standing on the Route 121 bridge. At a largely frozen Gunners Lake we got very close looks at several duck species in the small open area by the side of the road, including Ring-necked Ducks and a single American Black Duck, which were new species for the day, as well as Canvasbacks, Redheads, Hooded Mergansers and a male Bufflehead.
Friday, January 11 2019, Ocean City and Environs
January 11–12. Co-leaders: Stephanie Lovell and Cheryl Hogue. Species seen: 71. With two brand-new MBC members in tow, six of us left on a beautiful chilly Friday morning: destination Eastern Shore and whatever birds might be there! Our first stop was to pick up a scrumptious lunch over the bridge in Stephenville and head for the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center to look for Brown-headed Nuthatches. We did indeed find the nuthatches and a bonus of great views of a Brown Creeper, gleaning upside down very close to us. We were then permitted to use the CBEC gift shop as our lunch stop, and we enjoyed a bird feeder right outside the window as customers came and went. Our next stop was Oakley Street in Cambridge for its guaranteed scrum of ducks. We were not disappointed. Photographers come there and throw corn out to attract ducks to an easy meal. A local birder told of a Goldeneye seen not too far away, so we moved over to Great Marsh Park and found it! Our major job for the day was to go around the Wildlife Drive at Blackwater NWR. At the first pull-out, we had a pair of Bald Eagles sitting on an Osprey platform. I guess they were taking a break from nest building. The drive around was very satisfying, lots of Tundra Swan, Snow Geese, Shovelers, Pintails, and Great Blue Herons at every pull-out. All told, we saw 16 Bald Eagles, adults and young. We arrived at our motel in Ocean City about 5:30 and received good advice for a dinner place. The group had decided to make this a one-night stay because of the impeding snowstorm. Saturday was cloudy, but no snow forecast until much later, so after a generous breakfast we headed for the inlet. We were all bundled up against the cold and wind and got some good sightings of Brandt, Eider, one lone female Harlequin, Ruddy Turnstone, lots of loons, and a rarity—a Glaucous Gull. Our last stops were not as productive except for Bayside Development pond, where we had a number of ducks including Gadwall, which we had not seen elsewhere. A run down to Assateague was quiet; a lot of the inlets were frozen over.
By this time, there were little tiny flakes of snow in air, so we headed back, very pleased with our productive days.
Tuesday, January 01 2019, “Earliest Bird” Trip into D.C.
Leader: Mike Bowen; Participants: 15, including two children under 10 and several others who were also on their very first MBC field trip. We loved having them along. Weather: Cloudy but almost balmy -- in the 40’s, with light winds -- compared to 2018, which was sub-freezing all day. Species count: 34 Highlights: Right off the get-go we had Cackling Goose, Common Merganser, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye and Pied-billed Grebe at Georgetown Reservoir. No unusual gulls there beyond the usual 3 species, despite reports earlier in the week of an Iceland Gull. A male Kingfisher flew by and perched for great scope views. Constitution Gardens pond was alive with birds once again this year – our photographers delighted in taking point-blank shots of Gadwall, Shoveler, American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck, a couple of Ruddy Ducks and an almost somnolent Great Blue Heron. Our next stop was at the Tidal Basin, which was almost empty of water birds, but where we ran into an extremely cooperative Brown Creeper, lots of Robins and a few Brown-headed Cowbirds. Hains Point was not open to vehicles this year because of the government shutdown, but we still were able to visit the Hains Point Golf Club which, thankfully, offered the only public restrooms in the federal parks area. The leader feared that the Black-crowned Night-herons at the head of the Washington Channel might not show this year (they were totally absent the day before) but happily there were 9 there when we came by. Just where these birds hang out otherwise is a mystery. Nearby, in the hedges by the (locked up) NPS headquarters we were able to find a nice flock of wintering passerines – White-throated Sparrow, House Finch, American Goldfinch, Junco, Cardinal and Mockingbird. eBird checklists for the trip contain embedded photos taken by our ace photographers Evelyn Ralston and Anne Mytych and can be found at: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S51158968
Sunday, December 09 2018, Cambridge Waterfront and Blackwater Refuge
Leader: Mark England; Participants: 15 plus leader; Weather: Cold and very overcast—a mid-afternoon mini-blizzard at Blackwater cut the trip short. Species: About 56.
We met at 9 a.m. at the Sailwinds Visitor Center on the Choptank River in Cambridge and scoped out the waterfowl, which included Long-tailed Duck, Bufflehead, Surf Scoter, Ruddy Duck, a single Common Loon, and close-in American Widgeon and Lesser Scaup. At the end of Oakley Street, we saw many Canvasbacks from only feet away, and a drake Redhead mixed in as well. At Great Marsh Park, we found a small group of Goldeneye well out in the river. After a stop at the Goose Creek store at Rt. 16, we made several stops along Egypt Road, and found birds like American Kestrel, Red-shouldered, Red-tailed, and Cooper’s Hawk, Pileated Woodpecker, Killdeer, and a few Black-bellied Plovers, seen by some only. We had no luck finding meadowlarks or pipits this trip. We ate our lunch inside the Blackwater Visitor Center, which was a nice favor extended by the staff, then headed upstairs to the excellent museum and observation area. Here we saw a White-crowned Sparrow at the feeder, Northern Harriers, about 150 Tundra Swans, and dabbling ducks including American Black Duck, Ring-billed Duck, Mallard and N. Pintail. At this point, around 2 p.m., we started seeing snowflakes, which quickly got heavier. We checked the Cambridge weather forecast, and it called for a “wintry mix” till 8 pm., which sounded ominous. Despite that, we wanted to try to get in some of the Wildlife Drive at the refuge. Our best find was a group of several Fox Sparrows flitting about in the understory of the Marsh Edge Trail pine woods. We added Hooded Mergansers and Northern Shovelers to our excellent day-list of waterfowl, and of course there were numerous Bald Eagles seen during the trip. We had planned to go later to the Bestpitch Ferry Road marsh to look for Short-eared Owls, but with the snow getting more intense, we left Blackwater about 3 p.m. As it turned out, the refuge fell just inside the northern edge of the snowstorm, and once we were a few miles north of Cambridge, there was no snow at all.
Sunday, November 04 2018, Oaks Landfill
Leader: Mark England; Participants: 17 plus leader; Weather: Could not have been better—clear, sunny, little wind; Species: 39; Despite some grousing about not getting an extra hour of sleep as daylight savings time had ended during the night, we formed carpools with walkie-talkies and spent a nice morning at the landfill. Birding was a little slow at first due to the 39-degree temperature, but activity picked up after a while. We had a Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, and Sharp-shinned Hawk early on, and later added an adult Merlin flying close overhead, two Red-tails, two American Kestrels, a Cooper’s Hawk seen by some, and at least two Northern Harriers. The harriers were never that close and usually backlit, but those who stayed to the end were excited to see a circling male and female close overhead against the pure blue sky. In addition to the eight raptor species, we saw eight sparrow species plus junco. Sparrows included several Savannah, Song, White-throated, Chipping, Field, Swamp, two juvenile White-crowned at the end, and a rather grayish Vesper Sparrow, with its very prominent eyering. There were no waterfowl in the pond visible from Blue Mash, but we found six Bufflehead and four Ruddy Ducks in one of the leachate ponds.
Wednesday, October 10 2018, Lois Green Park
Leader: Mike Bowen; no other participants. Weather: Unseasonably warm and humid, in the mid to upper 70’s with a light southerly breeze. Species count: 34.
Highlights: Double-crested Cormorant, Pied-billed Grebe, a pair of Northern Pintails, 3 Killdeer, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, a House Wren and 5 Eastern Towhees, one a young male just growing his black head feathers. Surprise absences: no Palm Warblers (or any other warbler) and only 2 Song Sparrows. This little park will be full of several sparrow species after the next big cold front comes through. In fact, MBC members are strongly encouraged to bird here this winter and next spring; this park is very “underbirded.” eBird checklist for this trip, with a number of embedded photos, is at: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49097111
Sunday, October 07 2018, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and Kenilworth Park
Thirteen persons joined co-leaders Mike Bowen and Gerry Hawkins for a field trip to Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens on Sunday, October 7. Highlights at the Gardens included a late Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Swainson’s Thrush, Wilson’s Snipe in nearby flight, several Yellow-rumped Warblers and several Eastern Phoebes. Here we also encountered Swamp Sparrows, Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons and Wood Ducks in flight among other expected birds. After the Gardens we visited nearby Kenilworth Park. Although the Loggerhead Shrike seen at Kenilworth Park during the prior two days apparently had moved on and we decided not to wade through dense shrub vegetation to look for a continuing Nelson’s Sparrow, here we enjoyed watching several Eastern Meadowlarks, Savannah Sparrows, Palm Warblers and Eastern Bluebirds as well as a single Tree Swallow and more Wood Ducks in flight. All things considered a very enjoyable addition to the MBC field trip calendar.
Saturday, June 30 2018, Oaks Landfill
We started the June 30th trip at 6:45 a.m. to get in more birding before it got too hot, and ended up with 51 species seen or heard, about 17 more than the earlier trip. We had two Dickcissels in roughly the same area as before, then a hovering American Kestrel, but the previous Blue Grosbeak stakeout spot had been abandoned. Luckily, we heard a singing male as we drove around the back side of the landfill, and we had good looks at a pair perched on a fence. We had another well-seen singing Orchard Oriole, 3 Eastern Kingbirds, a Willow Flycatcher, and some in the group saw a Baltimore Oriole near the leachate ponds. We heard both Prairie Warbler and Yellow-billed Cuckoo near the Blue Mash fenceline, but neither appeared in view. At the big pond, we saw Cedar Waxwings hawking insects over the water, but little else. I mentioned to the group that late summer shorebirding can be quite good when the water levels are low enough for some mudflats to emerge, as in 2017. Hopefully there will some pond evaporation over the next few weeks, and we can do some late afternoon MBC trips to the landfill to look for migrating shorebirds.
Saturday, June 16 2018, Oaks Landfill
We started the June 16th trip at 7:30 in the morning, which was perhaps a little late for a summer trip, but had good looks early on at target species Blue Grosbeak (both male and female), and three Dickcissels, including a richly-colored male, a drab immature male, and a female. Frank Witebsky later spotted a Grasshopper Sparrow, but it flew briefly and then dropped into the grass out of sight. We had close looks at several Indigo Buntings and Brown Thrashers, and an adult male Orchard Oriole singing from the top of a pine tree. We saw numerous Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Yellowthroats, both breeding in big numbers at the landfill, possibly because of the wet spring weather. Birding slowed considerably after 10 a.m. with the increasing heat, and we adjourned to the Olney Grille for an excellent lunch with refreshing cold ice tea.
Sunday, May 06 2018, Izaak Walton League, B-CC Chapter, Conservation Farm
Leader: Jim Nelson. Participants: 9. Weather: Started overcast and cool with sun breaking out mid-walk, temperature rising from 50’s to 60’s. Thanks to IWL-BCC member Diane Seward, our group once again enjoyed access to this prime private property near Poolesville with a great mix of habitats. Another IWL-BCC member acted as our escort. Overall we tallied 58 species, ahead of last year's 53 and right at our average of 57.4. Many of our birds were heard only, and not everyone got to see or hear each species. We had only 5 species of warblers -- Common Yellowthroat, Northern Parula, Blackburnian, Yellow, and Yellow-rumped (missing Prairie Warbler for the first time) – and also missed some other expected migrant species. Good finds included Double-crested Cormorant, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Bared Owl, and Yellow-throated Vireo. We also had Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, Scarlet Tanager, Eastern Phoebe, Acadian and Great-crested Flycatchers, and singing Grasshopper Sparrows, Field Sparrows, and Eastern Towhees. Chipping Sparrows were everywhere with a conservative tally of 36 for the eBird checklist. A mysterious empidonax flycatcher had to go down as Alder/Willow since it was doing a call that was hard to peg to either species. The total eBird species list for this “hot spot” now stands at 132 species with the Blackburnian Warbler added on this trip. The eBird checklist for this trip can be found at https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S45356781 .
Saturday, April 21 2018, Blue Mash Nature Trail/Oaks Landfill
Leader: Mark England; Participants: 16 plus leader; Weather: Clear and sunny, 35-55. While still in the Blue Mash parking lot, we heard two Barred Owls calling in the nearby woods. Along the gravel road, we had a Palm Warbler, a well-seen Eastern Towhee or two singing atop small trees, and our first of a few Brown Thrashers. We saw four flyover Double-crested Cormorants, several Eastern Bluebirds, a Swamp Sparrow, a few Yellow-rumped Warblers, and a singing Common Yellowthroat. From the Blue Mash side of the fenceline, we scoped a pair of American Kestrels in a landfill tree about 150 yards off, and as we came around the last pond near Zion Road, we watched an adult Red-shouldered Hawk fly into a large tree and flush another medium-sized hawk, which turned out to be an adult Broad-winged Hawk, with its bold tail banding clearly seen. We also had a Northern Harrier and a Red-tailed Hawk about this time, as well as two beavers in the pond. At the Oaks Landfill, we added 8 new species to the 40 seen at Blue Mash, including Barn Swallow, Savannah Sparrow, Chimney Swifts, Spotted Sandpiper, and Bufflehead. We had repeated good looks at both kestrels and harriers (probably 3 of each), but searched without luck for early Grasshopper Sparrows, Blue Grosbeaks, or Dickcissels, all of which bred last summer at the landfill, and will hopefully return again in May. A final note is that Tesla Solar had not yet started the planned installation of about 17 acres of solar panels on the south end of the landfill hill.
Sunday, April 15 2018, MBC Field Trip to Occoquan Bay NWR, VA
Species count: 64 - Thirteen persons joined leaders Gerry Hawkins and Mike Bowen on a surprisingly warm and sunny (rain had been forecast) field trip to Occoquan Bay NWR in Woodbridge, VA. The closure of Charlie Road due to nesting Bald Eagles took us by Turtle Pond and the bird banding site, where we watched volunteers at work banding Yellow-rumped Warblers and saw both Teal species, Greater Yellowlegs, and several Spotted Sandpipers. Trip highlights included a quite unusual Little Blue Heron, numerous Brown Thrashers and Prairie Warblers, Tree, Northern Rough-winged and Barn Swallows, a few Purple Martins, confiding Eastern Bluebirds, Common Yellowthroats, a few Palm Warblers, several stunning Prothonotary Warblers and (for some of the group) a Yellow-throated Warbler. Occoquan did not disappoint on the raptor front, with numerous Ospreys and Bald Eagles, both species heavily engaged in nesting activity. Herring, Ring-billed and Bonaparte’s Gulls were seen over the bay, together with numerous Caspian Terns. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Virginia’s Prince William County – a long way from the familiar spots in Montgomery County, but well worth the trip. The checklist for the trip, including Gerry’s photos, can be found at: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44607102
Saturday, April 14 2018, Wheaton Regional Park
The morning started with a bird walk led by Gail Mackiernan and continued with a park cleanup organized by Evelyn Ralston. The weather was unbelieveably sunny and warm (upper 70's) after a cold and wet week. We found a nice variety of birds (36 species total) although 2 Palms were our only Warblers. There were a newly arrived Green Heron and an Osprey at Pine Lake, several Ruby-crowned Kinglets & 2 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Bluebirds were checking and filling the boxes and we met "the last" Dark-eyed Junco, according to Gail. We were 12 for the walk and 17 for the cleanup which filled about 10 bags of trash and 4 bags of recyclables. Amazing for a park that looks rather clean! Photos have been posted on the Club's Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/MontgomeryBirdClub/).
Sunday, April 08 2018, Hughes Hollow
Leader: Jim Nelson. Participants: 10. Weather: Mostly sunny, temps started at 28 rising to about 40 by the end. Species: 53. We had a nice variety of bird species on this cold morning. The species total was just one less than last year’s trip, but overall numbers of birds were down a bit. Birds of note included an Osprey flying over the impoundments, an actively-calling Cooper’s Hawk back in the fields, a cooperative Wilson’s Snipe, calling Barred Owl, Northern Rough-winged, Tree, and Barn Swallows, a Marsh Wren which had been present for a couple of months, Brown Creeper, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Hermit Thrush, lots of yellow Palm Warblers and Yellow-rumped Warblers, a nice Savannah Sparrow, and Rusty Blackbirds. Waterfowl included Blue-winged Teal, Wood Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Hooded Merganser, Great Blue Heron, Double-crested Cormorant, lots of American Coot, and calling Pied-bill Grebes. A very congenial group used the many sets of eyes to spot good birds. Complete checklist is available in eBird at https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44361957 .
Thursday, March 15 2018, Joint Montgomery Bird Club/Audubon Naturalist Society trip
Leader: Jim Green. Last evening was the last of the bird walks that I lead. Things were pretty quiet on the Potomac River at Reilly’s Lock. A boat and kayak on the river didn’t help matters either but most of the waterfowl appeared to have moved out. We saw a Horned Grebe, Common Mergansers (flyovers) and a very cooperative Ruby-crowned Kinglet before moving on.
At Hughes Hollow there were great looks at American Wigeon, Ring-necked Ducks and Hooded Mergansers. A Wilson’s Snipe flew out of an impoundment and Pied-billed Grebes were heard.
With time to kill we walked down Sycamore Landing Rd. It was very quiet but heard and saw quite a few Mallards and Wood Ducks flushing from the wet woods between the two bridges.
Once in the field we saw displays of several American Woodcocks including one that repeatedly landed close to us. Everybody was able to get a brief look at one. First “peent” was heard at 7:38 and last at 7:55pm.
Tuesday, March 13 2018, Joint Montgomery Bird Club/Audubon Naturalist Society trip
Leader: Jim Green. This evening I lead another evening bird trip (joint Montgomery Bird Club/Audubon Naturalist Society) trip.
The evening started slowly with waterfowl on the Potomac River viewed from Reilly’s Lock almost nonexistent. Highlights were a Bonaparte Gull hightailing downriver with a few Ring-billed Gulls never to be seen again, a Horned and several Pied-billed Grebes and a distant Bald Eagle.
Moving on to Hughes Hollow we saw American Wigeon, Gadwall, Ring-necked Ducks and American Coots. Consensus was that the highlight at HH was hearing the unique hollow barking “gwop gwop gwop” calls of the Pied-billed Grebe.
Last stop was Sycamore Landing fields for American Woodcock (AMWO) display. Despite the cold weather and some other obstacles that I will mention these birds did not disappoint. However everybody on the trip (11 of us) came away at the end of the trip with the AMWOs receiving a bronze medal (possibly silver at best).
We had a caravan of 6 cars following me slowly down the road. While adjacent to the AMWO field I spotted a raptor perched on a snag ahead of me. Immediately I assumed it was a red-tailed or red-shouldered hawk. After getting my binocs on the bird I jumped out of the car and let people know it was a Peregrine Falcon. Before all could get on it it flew off and landed on another snag. It sat there for 5 minutes or more and everybody had nice scope views and many photos were taken.
On these trips. I always pull halfway down the road and into the parking circle and turn around so that cars are facing River Road. As we were approaching the location where I park the driver of the last car (Maury?) mentioned that she saw a perched Barred Owl in a sapling on the near edge of the field close to where we would park the cars.
Once everybody was out of the cars we quickly found the Barred Owl and then the spectacle began. As we were ready to walk out into the AMWO field we suddenly heard a loud REPETETIVE harsh single syllable scolding call. Before we knew what happened the Peregrine Falcon had not only returned but flew across the field swooping down about 5 feet from the Barred Owl and up into the nearby tree where I originally found the bird. It continued squawking continuous for another minute or so and then flew off again to a distant perch. We then walked out into the field. Twice before it was AMWO time we saw the Barred Owl fly a short distance and each time the Peregrine came flying across the field and made a half-hearted swoop at the owl. It was only the second time in my birding experiences that I’ve heard vocalization from these falcons but never close up and sustained like this.
At this time the AMWO display seemed like an aftermath and with the falcon patrolling the area like it was we didn’t know what to expect. Their display continued like usual business. Estimated 4 different birds and once again a nearby woodcock provided us with multiple displays and a brief look on the ground. First “peent” was heard at 7:35 and the last at 7:52.
The Peregrine Falcon was either a female or 1st year bird. Nothing better than having a fun mix of birders on a field trip coupled with unique birding memories. Final trip is this Thursday meeting at 4:30pm in the bridge at Reilly’s Lock.
Saturday, March 10 2018, Patuxent River Park—Jug Bay Natural Area
Leader: John Bjerke. Participants: 12. Species: 37. A joint trip of the Audubon Naturalist Society and Montgomery Bird Club ventured out in fine cool late winter weather. A flock of Tree Swallows chasing insects just above the river conformed that spring was on the way. We had one brief sighting of a Rusty Blackbird; always a much sought bird. A Brown Thrasher gave us a lengthy serenade as we scanned the river near the Visitor Center. We had about 10 sightings of Bald Eagle (probably 5 individuals) and one of a Northern Harrier. Eastern Towhees were calling in several areas. Scraps in the roadway attracted three different White-breasted Nuthatches. Several Wood Ducks and a flock of Common Mergansers were present. Surprisingly we had only one Osprey. And Eastern Phoebe was one more reminder that the season is changing.
Wednesday, March 07 2018, Joint Montgomery Bird Club/Audubon Naturalist Society trip
Leader: Jim Green. Last evening I led the first of three joint MBC/ANS (Mont Bird Club/Audubon Naturalist Society).
I normally do three locations starting on the bridge scanning the Potomac at Reilly’s Lock. Variety of waterfowl here included a Redhead amongst a flock of Greater Scaup, all 3 mergansers, an Amer Wigeon and 3 different grebes - Pied-billed, Horned and Red-necked.
Second stop was at Hughes Hollow. Ducks were minimal here with only flyover Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers and partially hidden views of Ring-necked Ducks. We had brief glimpses of the continuing Marsh Wren only when it flew brief distances and buried itself in the cattails. The setting sun made for some great landscape views.
(Earlier in the day while scouting for the trip I counted at least 24 Tree Swallows so they’re back in good numbers and the unique calls of the Pied-billed grebes they make on potential breeding grounds.)
Last stop was the old sunflower field on Sycamore Landing Rd for American Woodcock display. Although they were not out in great numbers the two (possibly three) did not disappoint. We enjoyed multiple displays on a chilly evening. Everybody had great looks at one on the ground while peenting. First peent was heard at 6:30 and last at 6:51pm.
Thanks to the 7 people who joined me for a nice evening.
Sunday, February 04 2018, Oaks Landfill (Private)
Leader: Mark England; Participants: 12; Weather: Dreadful!—34 degrees with a steady, soaking rain; Species: Very few, but. . .
Some very hardy (foolhardy?) birders joined me on a car-birding trip around the landfill. We had hoped for a bit of intermittent rain, when we could get out of our vehicles and look for sparrows or possible perched raptors, but with no letup in the rain, we made a slow pass around the entire property. But, we saw a only few Song Sparrows, and a lone Red-tailed Hawk, which flushed as we drove past. With the birds all hunkered down, we then drove to the top of the landfill, which is always the best spot to see Northern Harriers and (usually) Short-eared Owls. We caught a glimpse of a harrier on the way up, and were encouraged by that. Then we parked at the very highest spot of the landfill and waited a good while, but saw only a group of Mallard fly-bys and probable Red-winged Blackbirds. I decided it was worth checking the lower end of the landfill, as it was past 4:30, and Short-eared Owls should have been hunting by then, based on past experience. We picked up another couple of harriers, including a male “gray ghost”, and then drove slowly down the center road on the lower end of the landfill, trying to get a better look at the harriers. At the first grassy path to our left, I stopped the car, as Thomas Doebel and I were amazed to see a ground-roosting female Short-eared Owl right out in the open, no more than 20 feet away. I rolled my window down so Thomas could quickly snap some photos, then we moved up so others could see the bird. The owl did flush, but only flew a short distance, allowing the photographers in the group to get some great pictures, and the rest of us had superb views through either binoculars or the spotting scope. It was a very cooperative bird! Though most of us were cold and soaked, it was a happy group when we left at 5:30. Thanks to the Montgomery County Dept. of Environmental Protection for allowing MBC and ANS to hold these birdwalks.
Sunday, January 21 2018, Black Hill Regional Park
Four persons joined leader Gerry Hawkins on a waterfowl focused field trip to Black Hill Regional Park on Sunday, January 21. We started at the Visitors Center and then visited the mostly frozen boat launch area and ended up at the Route 121 bridge over Little Seneca Lake. Highlights included good looks at 12 species of waterfowl, Pied-billed and Horned Grebes and American Coot. Waterfowl included 18 Common Goldeneyes, seven Canvasbacks, 12 Northern Pintails, 15 American Black Ducks, small numbers of Gadwall, Lesser Scaup, Buffleheads and Ruddy Ducks, and many Common and Hooded Mergansers among the hundreds of Mallards and Canada Geese. Non-waterfowl highlights included a presumed pair of adult Bald Eagles perched together in a tree.
Monday, January 01 2018, "Earliest" Bird Trip
Leader: Mike Bowen; Participants: 11
Weather: 11 degrees F at the start, with increasing NW breezes. It was COLD! Without doubt the coldest New Year’s Day in the 15 years the club has run this trip. Almost 40 degrees below the balmy temps. on New Year’s Day 2017.
Species count: 38
Highlights: Despite the weather (or perhaps because of it – bodies of water were partly or totally frozen, confining water birds to small patches of open water), we had a simply sensational morning. There were Mallards and Canada Geese of course, 33 Common Merganser, Ring-necked Duck, Ruddy Duck and Redhead at Georgetown Reservoir, Black-crowned Night-herons on the Washington Channel/Hains Point leg, together with Hooded and Common Merganser and Pied-billed Grebe, many more Mallards and Hooded Mergansers at Roaches Run in Arlington County, where we also spied a male Wood Duck, a Lesser Scaup, a Bufflehead, another Redhead, more Ring-necked Ducks and (best of all, rather uncommon in these parts) a female Common Goldeneye. We finished the morning at the Washington Sailing Marina just below National Airport, adding Gadwall, Black Duck, Wigeon, Shoveler, Canvasback, and a zillion Coots. Our decision to emphasize waterfowl meant that we didn’t spend much time looking for land birds and, indeed, our only notable find in that department was an immature Yellow-bellied Sapsucker seen briefly near Hains Point. The several Bald Eagles seen included a feisty duo in an aerial duel over Roaches Run. Many thanks to all the participants for handling the brutal weather with aplomb and to Gerry Hawkins for recording the eBird checklists.
Sunday, December 17 2017, 2017 Seneca Christmas Bird Count
As Count Compiler, I am pleased to report the results of the December 17, 2017, Seneca Christmas Bird Count (CBC).
The Seneca CBC has been conducted since 1955, but there are no published results for 1958, 1960, 1962, and 1966. So this year’s CBC was the 59th recorded. Each year, the count is done in a 15-mile diameter count circle, centered at Violette’s Lock on the C&O Canal, and includes areas of Montgomery, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties. The count circle is divided into 16 sectors (5 in Virginia – Sectors 12-16 -- comprising about 40% of the circle, and 11 in Maryland – Sectors 1-11 -- covering the other 60%).
For this year’s count we had 135 people participating -- 124 people counted in the field and 14 people counted as feeder watchers. (The 135 total participating is lower than adding the two categories together because some folks served two roles, counting in the field earlier in the day and then also contributing a feeder/yard count from their home later in the day.) This is the highest number of participants since 1995. I was pleased to have many new folks join our veteran counters in both the Virginia and Maryland sectors.
The weather cooperated on count day. Through our combined efforts, we tallied 98 species on December 17 with 10 additional species that eluded all of us on count day but were found in our count circle during “count week” (the period from December 14 through December 20). The combined total species count of 108 is just shy of the record 110 in 1995 and is well above the average of 99 for the previous 10 years. We tallied 34,015 individual birds, our highest total since 2007 and well above the 10-year average of 28,332.
I have included, as a PDF document, the spread sheet showing the results of the count by sector, with sector totals at the bottom and count circle totals at the far right (“cw” in the “Total” column designates a species reported during the “count week” but not officially tallied by our counters on December 17th). I have adjusted the final totals for Bald Eagles and Common Ravens for the count circle to eliminate duplication between and among sectors where I was able to determine the same birds were seen two or more times. Thanks to everyone who provided time and location details on their eagle and raven sightings.
Here are the highlights of this year’s Seneca CBC:
This year, like the last two years, was unusually warm in the fall and early December. Either because of, or in spite of, the weather, we had good species diversity overall and many species with higher numbers than usual. And this warm pattern probably helped give us interesting and unusual species on our count.
We didn’t find any species that are new to the count this year, but we still had unexpected species. Most notable were a male Eurasian Wigeon and a LeConte’s Sparrow that may well be the same two birds that were the first ever for our count last year (each was found in the same location as last year – the Wigeon in Sector 6 in Montgomery County and the Sparrow in Sector 16 at the edge of the Trump golf course in Loudoun County). Our eighth-ever Sandhill Cranes were spotted in Sector 7 in Montgomery County flying over one location and then feeding in another. This two-some seems to be visiting for the winter and may be the same two birds that were spending a lot of time in and around Algonkian Regional Park in Loudoun County and visiting locations in both Virginia and Maryland last winter. Counters in Sector 7 also found a Ring-necked Pheasant (the first since 2004 but of questionable origin since breeding pheasants seem to be gone from most or all of Maryland). A single Common Loon was found in Sector 16, a Rough-legged Hawk surprised counters in Sector 13, an Eastern Screech Owl was in Sector 5, and an American Woodcock was heard displaying before dawn in Sector 8 which also reported 2 Great Horned Owls.
We also had interesting highs and lows of many other species.
We had three new all-time high counts for the Seneca CBC with 55 Tundra Swan in 3 sectors, 178 Pileated Woodpecker across all the sectors, and 4 Merlin in 3 sectors.
Other significant high counts (looking at the last ten years or more of data for this CBC) are for Canada Goose (highest since 2002) and the second highest ever for Hooded Merganser, Fish Crow, and Chipping Sparrow. Barred Owls were found in 8 sectors and had the highest total since 1986. We also had much better than average counts for all the woodpecker species and better than average counts for all the sparrow species except Dark-eyed Junco which came in well below the 10-year average (perhaps because of the warmer weather to our north).
On the other end of the spectrum are the low counts. Looking back 10 years or more (which includes the rescheduled 2009 count day with difficult, post blizzard, access conditions and fewer participants), there were no Red-breasted Nuthatch or American Pipit reported this year. Red-tailed Hawk was the lowest since 1969; Rock Pigeon was the lowest since 2009; Brown Creeper was the lowest since 2000; and there was only one Pine Siskin.
Once again this year, we see the importance of having many sets of eyes in the field in a variety of habitats, with 17 species found in only one sector, and, of those, 11 species represented by sightings of only a single bird. The value of geographic diversity is shown by the 9 species found only in our Virginia sectors and the 13 species found only in Maryland sectors.
I appreciate the folks who diligently wrote up the details of unusual sightings.
Let me end with a little historical perspective. We’ve come a long way since the first Seneca CBC in 1955 which tallied 32 species and 1,305 individual birds on count day. Each of the 58 subsequent reported counts had more species and only one had fewer individual birds on count day. Twenty species have been tallied on all 59 reported Seneca CBCs, and 11 more have been tallied on 58 Seneca CBCs. At the other extreme, 12 species have been tallied on only one Seneca CBC
Thanks to all those who helped make this year’s count a success, both sector leaders and participants. I hope you will be able to join us for the 2018 count. Save the date – Sunday, December 16. Let me know if you have any questions about the count or the results.
Sunday, December 10 2017, Cambridge
Leader: Mark England Participants: 10 including leader Weather: Quite cold and windy in the morning, but clear and sunny. Species: 54
We met at the Sailwinds Dorchester County Visitor Center one hour later than usual, due to the forecasted overnight road freezing. We had good views of waterfowl on the Choptank River, including Surf Scoters, probable White-winged Scoters, one each Common Loon and Red-throated Loon, Bufflehead, and a distant group of scaup. As we headed back to our cars, two Peregrine Falcons flew by the visitor center, one only 20 feet overhead, remarkably close! At the Cambridge Marina, we had the usual Ring-billed, Herring, and Great Black-backed Gulls, but also two Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the pier.
Along Egypt Road, the wind kept sparrows down, but we did pick up Savannah Sparrows and some other nice birds including Northern Harrier, RT Hawk, Bald Eagle, E. Meadowlark, and Black-bellied Plover. At the first stop on the Blackwater Wildlife Drive, we had excellent view of dabblers including N. Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Black Duck, Gadwall, and a Wood Duck in flight, and had close looks at an immature Red-headed Woodpecker and an adult Bald Eagle at a later stop on the drive, as well as N. Pintail and a Cooper’s Hawk. We finished the afternoon at the marsh at Bestpitch Ferry Road Bridge, and had good looks at harriers and a couple of Short-eared Owls, thanks to a tip from Lynn Davidson of Anne Arundel County.
Sunday, November 19 2017, Occoquan Bay NWR, Prince William County, VA
Leaders: Gerry Hawkins and Mike Bowen. Participants: 4 Weather: Exceedingly windy, so windy that some signed-up participants begged off Species count: 38 (way down from previous years)
Highlights: Very large flocks of Lesser Scaup and Gadwall at a considerable distance; Horned and Pied-billed Grebes and a single Common Loon; 15 Canvasbacks and single Bufflehead and Ruddy Duck. The vicious winds kept small birds under cover most of the time, but we did eke out a Winter Wren and both Kinglet species. Our sparrow haul was disappointingly low -- we missed Swamp Sparrow and Fox Sparrow for the first time on this trip for many years. 50 Yellow-rumped Warblers were (literally) cold comfort! The eBird checklist for the trip can be found at: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S40597456
Tuesday, November 14 2017, Sparrow Walk at Blue Mash
Leaders; Lydia Schindler and Linda Friedland. Participants: 6 including leaders. Species: 38
Unseasonably chilly weather and a heavy cloud cover didn't deter our hardy group as we searched the brushy areas of Blue Mash for little brown jobs. We were rewarded with many White-throated, several Song, a few Field and at least five handsome Fox sparrows. Along the way we found both Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned kinglets as well as numerous bluebirds.The sky cleared a bit and raptors made a welcome appearance: Sharp-shinned, Red-tailed and Red-shouldered hawks and an unexpected Bald Eagle.
Sunday, October 29 2017, Blackwater NWR
This trip was cancelled due to inclement weather. It has been rescheduled for Sunday, December 10, 2017. Please see calendar for details.
Tuesday, October 10 2017, Blue Mash Walk
Leader: Stephanie Lovell. An intimate group we were as the three of us walked around Blue Mash on a damp dreary morning. It promised rain any minute, but held off until we finished our tour. Temps were in the low 70's and it was very humid. First off, of course, a Carolina Wren let its presence be known, and then several Blue Jays harassed a large hawk, probably the resident Red-tail, but he flew off before we could ID him. The first pond was totally dry, half a dozen or so Killdeer inspecting the flats, but no ducks, with no water! The second pond only held a Great Blue Heron, and looked very scummy. We heard Towhees, Cardinals; saw a Field Sparrow and a Song; Kinglets were about, both Ruby crowned and Golden crowned; a Yellow Rump showed himself; and a well hidden Mocking bird gave a symphony of bird calls! Fly overs included a Cooper's, Canada Geese and American Crows. We ended up with not a bad list for a very gray day where it was hard to distinguish color. 23 species total.
Sunday, October 08 2017, Little Bennett
This walk was cancelled due to weather.
Saturday, October 07 2017, Big Sit - Black Hill Regional Park
Saturday morning Big Sit at Black Hill Regional Park was attended by seven birders who were treated to perfect weather, fresh coffee and donuts. A total of 47 species were seen and the highlights included a great egret that hung around the entire day, bald eagle, great views of wood ducks and a Nashville warbler. EBird list can be found at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39608418
Sunday, September 24 2017, Pennyfield to Violette’s “Bird Stalk”
Leader: Jim Nelson. Participants: 6, including leader. Weather: A sunny day with temps rising from high 60’s to 80’s. Total species: 36. This walk is for folks who generally cannot get out as early. We met at Violette’s Lock at 9:00, carpooled down to Pennyfield Lock, and then walked upstream along the C&O Canal towpath back to Violette’s, ending just after noon. The total species count was a bit lower than last year with low numbers of land birds (few warblers and no sparrows or orioles) and few water birds or waders, not surprising given the unusually warm weather in the days before the walk. The sustained dry weather meant the second impoundment had only a little water and mud that failed to attract shorebirds and waders (just one Killdeer). Highlights were a cooperative Green Heron, an immature Bald Eagle, at least 30 Broad-winged Hawks flying high and heading south, an Empidonax flycatcher that was very yellow below but refused to come down to give us views of the upperparts, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, elusive vireos and a distant thrush that couldn’t be further identified, Black and White Warbler, Northern Parula, and a late Canada Warbler flagged by eBird. Before the walk while waiting at Violette’s Lock for everyone to arrive, the leader and one participant had quick views of a fly-over Red-headed Woodpecker. The complete checklist from the walk can be viewed in eBird at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39367892
Saturday, September 16 2017, Patuxent River Park, Jug Bay Natural Area, Prince Georges County
Leaders: Greg Kearns and John Bjerke. Participants: 20. Total species: at least 36. The annual Audubon Naturalist Society/MBC trip on the Patuxent River was held in warm sunny weather. Greg has started a new project to band and track the migration of Soras. During the trip we stopped at 5 of his trapping sites and found 2 birds, 1 juvenile and 1 adult. Trip participants were thrilled to see this elusive rail in the hand. Greg and his research assistant explained the banding process and the value of the information gathered. He also talked about the new capabilities for tracking the birds. He expects to capture about 300 Soras this fall and will attach small radio frequency transmitters to 30 of them. He is participating in the MOTUS network, a series of antennas at sites from Canada through the US eastern seaboard. Using grant money, he installed antennas at Jug Bay. If a bird in a registered MOTUS project flies within a few miles of an antenna its identifying information is captured. In addition to the captured Soras we saw at least 4 others and heard another dozen.. Other highlights included several small flocks of Blue-winged Teal, numerous Wood Ducks, and scattered sightings of Northern Harrier, Bald Eagles, Osprey, Cooper’s Hawk, American Kestrel, Solitary Sandpiper, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak.
Thursday, September 14 2017, Wheaton Regional Park
Leaders: Woody and Rae Dubois. Participants: 5. Species: 32. We had hoped for a number of warblers and other migrants after the rain, but the birding was somewhat quiet. We did, however, see several American Redstarts, Common Yellowthroats, a Magnolia and a couple of Black and White Warblers. The Northern Flickers and Brown Thrashers continued to move through and Ruby-throats were feeding on the Jewelweed.
Sunday, May 07 2017, Izaak Walton League, B-CC Chapter, Conservation Farm
Leader: Jim Nelson. Participants: 12. Weather: Cloudy and cool after several days of rain. Once again, thanks to Club member Jim Tate, our group enjoyed access to this prime private property near Poolesville with a great mix of habitats. Two League members acted as our escorts. Overall we tallied 53 species, behind last year's 75 species but in the range of 2015’s 44 species and 2014’s 57. Many of our birds were heard only, and not everyone got to see or hear each species. We had only 6 species of warblers (a big factor in our lower species count) -- Common Yellowthroat, Northern Parula, Yellow-rumped, Prairie, Cape May, and Yellow – and also missed some other expected migrant species. Good finds included Double-crested Cormorant, Broad-winged Hawk, and a very cooperative Least Flycatcher. We also had Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, Scarlet Tanager, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian and Great-crested Flycatchers, Swamp Sparrow, and singing Grasshopper and Field Sparrows. The total eBird species list for this “hot spot” now stands at 131 species with the Least Flycatcher added on this trip. We also saw a black snake trying to climb up to a bluebird box, which we later learned had successfully entered the house and eaten the young bluebirds. The eBird checklist for this trip, complete with great photos, can be viewed at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S36629114
Saturday, May 06 2017, Jug Bay Natural Area of Patuxent River Park
A cold and threatening day Saturday did not deter members of Montgomery Bird from joining members of Hartford Audubon Society (CT) on a trip up the Patuxent River on one of Greg Kearns' trips. This was specially arranged for the HAS people, but there was plenty of room for MBC people too. It is always a treat to join Greg on one of his trips up the Bay. The boat was covered in Tree and Barn Swallows when we got to the dock and got on board, they were constant companions up the bay. The water was very high due to three days of rain, and there was more to come later, but not enough to ruin the trip. There were many juvenile Bald Eagles in trees and overhead. Two flew over with huge golden carp in their talons that they had caught in the bay. Greg said that people had dumped their goldfish in the water and they had grown! a lot! Kingfisher, Cormorants, lots of Wood ducks feeding in the arrowhead. Many of the Osprey were hunkered down on nests, some males were still bringing sticks in to "improve" the homestead. They'll be hatching soon. The trip up the western arm of the river was quiet and full of bird song, Red-eyed and White-eyed Vireos, Orchard Orioles, Indigo Buntings, Wood Thrush singing, and best of all, a great display by a singing Prothonotary Warbler who posed for pictures. However, at this point, the drizzle started and we headed back to increasing rain, we all fit under the roof and made it to dry land. Maybe next year we can pick a dry, sunny day and do this again.
Sunday, April 30 2017, Occoquan Bay NWR
Leaders: Michael Bowen and Gerry Hawkins. Seven persons joined leaders Gerry Hawkins and Mike Bowen on a warm, sunny field trip to Occoquan Bay NWR in Woodbridge, VA. Once again, closure of Charlie Road due to nesting Bald Eagles dictated our route, which took us by Turtle Pond and the active bird banding site, where we watched volunteers at work and were allowed to help return banded birds to the wild. Trip highlights were eleven species of warbler, which included some well seen (normally skulking) Yellow-breasted Chats, Prothonotary Warblers, and Yellow Warblers. Most unexpected warbler was an early migrant male Wilson’s, spotted by Susan and seen at eye level. Other highlights included numerous singing Orchard Orioles, a vocal Blue Grosbeak, a half-dozen Ospreys and a couple of Bald Eagles. A few Ring-billed Gulls flew over the bay, together with a Caspian and a Forster’s Tern. Only shorebirds for the day were a couple of nicely plumaged Solitary Sandpipers. Altogether we encountered 57 bird species and thoroughly enjoyed our visit to one of northern Virginia’s premier birding locations – a long way from Montgomery County but well worth the trip.
Sunday, April 23 2017, Blue Mash Walk
Location: Blue Mash Nature Trail, Laytonsville, Md.
Weather: Cold, dark, and rainy—not good at all!
Participants: Leader only; six signups cancelled due to the weather.
Though it was a really lousy weather day, I had looked forward to this first spring outing, so I toured Blue Mash and made a brief stop later at the Oaks Landfill.
Before I even left the parking lot, I noticed a lot of songbird activity high up in the oaks nearby. Scope views revealed dozens of Am. Goldfinches, House Finches, and a few Purple Finches as well, feasting on the flowering oak catkins. After that, I found most of the usual suspects, but had some good looks at Swamp Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, Brown Thrasher, Green Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, and a very surprising pair of Lesser Scaup on the Blue Mash pond near Zion Road, the first ones I have ever seen there. I also heard an early Ovenbird in the woods. At the Oaks Landfill I picked up ever-present Savannah Sparrows and several Horned Larks in the shortgrass areas.
Sunday, April 09 2017, Hughes Hollow
Leader: Jim Nelson. Participants: 11. Weather: Sunny, temps started in the low 40’s rising to about 60 by the end. Species: 54. The warm late winter and early spring brought a nice variety of species and numbers of birds. Highest species total for this walk in 4 years. Birds of note included lots of first-of-year birds for the participants -- Green Heron, lots of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, singing Common Yellowthroats, both Western and Yellow Palm Warblers, singing Pine Warblers, and a Yellow-throated Warbler. Lingering winter birds included a nice Red-breasted Nuthatch and a single Rusty Blackbird. Waterfowl included Blue-winged Teal, Wood Duck, American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck, and Hooded Merganser, along with calling Pied-billed Grebes and some American Coot. We also enjoyed a Barred Owl sitting quietly in the woods, a singing male Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a very vocal Brown Thrasher, many Swamp Sparrows, and a lot of American Goldfinch with many singing males in their breeding finery. Most interesting pre-walk bird was the Wild Turkey that walked across River Road near Riley’s lock as the trip leader and another participant were driving to Hughes. As the cars stopped and then drove slowly by, the Turkey sat down in the middle of road and remained there as the cars drove off. The eBird checklist for the trip can be viewed at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S35832163
Saturday, March 11 2017, Jug Bay Natural Area of Patuxent River Park
Leader: John Bjerke
The annual ANS/MBC March trip to Jug Bay met very chilly temperatures and sometimes blustery winds under sunny skies. Numerous sightings of Bald Eagle probably involved 5 individuals. Two Ospreys were checking out a nesting platform. Although there had been an early arrival of Osprey in February, most of the platforms along this stretch of the Patuxent were still unvisited and the main migration seemed later than usual. Waterfowl were scarce except for Black Ducks and Wood Ducks. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Hermit Thrush were winter holdovers. Eastern Phoebe had arrived and large flocks of American Robins were feeding in the fields. The most unusual bird was a Gray Catbird seen from the bridge over Mattaponi Creek. We wondered if it had wintered in the area. We had three singing Pine Warblers announcing that Spring was coming despite the forecast for a foot of snow.
Sunday, February 05 2017, Oaks Landfill
Leader: Mark England
Weather: Very good, high 40’s.
We met at 3:30 for another late-afternoon winter bird walk at the closed Oaks Landfill. Before we formed carpools, I felt it necessary to temper expectations for seeing Short-eared Owls on this trip, as I had not seen one all winter at the landfill, even though the Meadow Voles seem to be thriving as usual—a real mystery! As expected, we had no SEOW’s this day either, but we were compensated with an excellent show of hunting Northern Harriers, at least six, but probably more, both male and female. Other raptors included juvenile and adult Red-shouldered Hawks, and two Red-tailed Hawks. We had good views of some sparrows, including Field, White-crowned (juv,), White-throated, and Savannah. Waterfowl variety was lacking, but we did see an American Black Duck and a Green-winged Teal in flight.
Sunday, January 15 2017, Black Hills RP
MBC/MOS Field Trip Report
Sunday, January 15, 2017
Black Hill RP, Montgomery Co, MD
Leader: Gerry Hawkins
Weather: Mild and sunny
Species count: 39
Highlights: Ten persons joined leader Gerry Hawkins for a waterfowl-focused field trip to Black Hill RP in the morning on January 15. We started the field trip at the Visitors Center and then visited the boat ramp area in Black Hill RP and stopped at the nearby Route 121 bridge over Little Seneca Lake. During the trip we saw ten species of waterfowl, with highlights including six Canvasbacks five Common Goldeneyes, three Gadwall, two American Black Ducks, four Ring-necked Ducks, 15 Buffleheads and large numbers of Common and Hooded Mergansers and Ruddy Ducks. In addition, we saw several Pied-billed Grebes, American Coots and Great Blue Herons, and a single Double-crested Cormorant, which was classified as rare for this location by eBird. Other birding highlights included two Brown Creepers and an adult Bald Eagle perched and in flight. Overall we saw 39 total species with an excellent diversity of waterfowl, which we thought was terrific for a mild, sunny winter day. For those interested a complete list of the birds seen on the field trip may be viewed at the following link: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S33685633
Wednesday, January 11 2017, Blue Mash Walk
Leader: Stephanie Lovell. After a few days of 19°, we lucked out with a beginning temperature of 47 going up to 57 by the time we ended our walk. Five people joined me on the sunny beginning up the road to the smaller pond. Big surprise! all the brush has been cut down and there was a clear view of the frozen pond. Nothing on it of course, but we were happy to see clearly into the space, only a couple of deer on the far hill observed us. The area up to the pond was flattened down from recent storms and there was not a sparrow to be seen. Only where we crossed the road and started walking along the fence line did we see and hear bird life, all way off in the trees against the sun. We heard more than we saw, a distant Towhee let us know he was there. A few skeins of Canada Geese went overhead, and a Mocking Bird watched our progress. A good view of a posing Savannah Sparrow in the brush was had by all. We even bushwhacked into the center of trees at one point where I've found lots of activity in the past, but nothing. Only when we got to the corner of the turn did we finally find a large group of White-throated Sparrows tucked into the vines. The second fence line provided some more species, Titmice, lots of Cardinals, and lots of Blue Jays, Song Sparrows and more White-throats, a few Robins flew by at the end. Couldn't find any wood peckers, we did see a Red-shouldered Hawk sunning itself on a post, but all in all a very quiet day with only 20 species total. It was a lovely day to be out though.
Sunday, January 01 2017, “Earliest Bird” Trip
Leader: Mike Bowen
Weather: Amazingly balmy, with temps. rising to over 50 degrees, and no wind
Species count: 39
Highlights: Georgetown Reservoir was pretty quiet, but it did give us a beautiful hen Common Merganser and a single elusive Pied-billed Grebe; the edges held several passerines that were our first for the year. Constitution Gardens pond was as always extremely productive; with the customary large (55) group of Ring-necked Ducks, 7 Gadwalls, two Buffleheads, and an astounding 29 Northern Shovelers. We also saw two perched Red-tailed Hawks there. A group of 6 Black-crowned Night-herons greeted us at the head of the Washington Channel, together with two Pied-billed Grebes. The trees around the FDR Memorial were empty of small birds, probably because of a perched Cooper’s Hawk, which allowed great scope and photo views. Due to a road closure caused by an early morning cycle event, our time near Hains Point was quite limited; just a few Lesser Scaup were visible among large numbers of Canada Geese, although the leader knew that hundreds of Scaup were probably sitting, out of sight, just a little farther down-river. Off then to the LBJ Grove and Columbia Marina, but with little time to spare. We saw close-in Hooded Mergansers right away, first of the year for all. Playing Red-breasted Nuthatch calls did not produce that species (it’s an irruption year and this is a good place for them), but our group did get a Brown Creeper, Juncos and White-throated Sparrows. Two vehicles stopped off briefly at Roaches Run before looping back to Georgetown Reservoir by way of National Airport. There we had our only Belted Kingfisher of the day. A comfortable morning, weather-wise, but perhaps a little lacking in the bird department. But there’s always New Year’s Day 2018!
Sunday, December 18 2016, 2016 Seneca Christmas Bird Count
The Seneca CBC has been conducted since 1955, but there are no published results for 1958, 1960, 1962, and 1966. So this year’s CBC was the 58th recorded. Each year, the count is done in a 15-mile diameter count circle, centered at Violette’s Lock on the C&O Canal, and includes areas of Montgomery, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties. The count circle is divided into 16 sectors (5 in Virginia – Sectors 12-16 -- comprising about 40% of the circle, and 11 in Maryland – Sectors 1-11 -- covering the other 60%).
For this year’s count we had 123 people participating -- 115 people counted in the field and 13 people counted as feeder watchers. (The 123 total participating is lower than adding the two categories together because some folks served two roles, counting in the field earlier in the day and then also contributing a feeder/yard count from their home later in the day or counting in one sector in the morning and helping in another in the afternoon.) This is the highest number of participants since 1995. I was pleased to have many new folks join our veteran counters in both the Virginia and Maryland sectors. I hope everyone will join us again for the 2017 count on Sunday, December 17.
Through our combined efforts, we tallied 100 species on December 18 with 5 additional species found in our count circle only during “count week” (the period from December 15 through December 21). The total species count of 105 is our highest since 2002 and is well above the average of 96 for the previous 10 years. We tallied 26,640 individual birds, above our 25,946 last year but still below the average of 29,129 for the previous 10 years.
I have included, as a PDF document, the spread sheet showing the results of the count by sector, with sector totals at the bottom and count circle totals at the far right (“cw” in the “Total” column designates a species reported during the “count week” but not officially tallied by our counters on December 18th).
Here are the highlights of this year’s Seneca CBC:
This year, like last year, was unusually warm in the fall and early December, but this year we had better species diversity overall, and waterfowl diversity and numbers were better with many species with higher numbers than usual. And this warm pattern probably helped give us several very unusual species on our count.
The first three unusual species are first-ever species for the Seneca CBC. A beautiful male Eurasian Wigeon was found by a keen observer in Sector 6 in Montgomery County who picked it out of a crowd of Canada Geese, Mallards, and American Wigeon on a pond at the Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary (a location we have special permission to bird for the CBC). Eurasian Wigeon is rare anywhere, but particularly away from the coast (there is only one other report in eBird farther west in our area than this location). Second, also in Sector 6 along Sycamore Landing Road, an observer found our first Blue Grosbeak, a species that should be long gone by December. Our third first-ever species was found by sharp-eyed counters in Sector 16 in Loudoun County at the edge of the Trump golf course (another location we have permission to bird for the CBC) – a Le Conte’s Sparrow, a rare migrant through our area (only a handful of records in eBird) and a species that should also be long gone by December.
In addition to these three first-ever count day species, a first-ever Eared Grebe was found a couple of days after the count on the Potomac viewed from Riley’s Lock and Violette’s Lock on the C&O Canal. It joins a small club of 3 other “count week only” species that, I hope, will someday be found on a count day.
Three of the four new species were photographed, and I was convinced by the written documentation I received on the Blue Grosbeak. So I am optimistic that all four species will be accepted by our CBC Regional Editor. There have been a lot of interesting birds reported in Montgomery County, Loudoun County, Fairfax County, and DC so far this winter season. And some of them were in places where birders would not be looking except on a CBC (or just on a walk around a birder’s own neighborhood – like the Black-throated Gray Warbler in northwest DC). As I noted last year, I suspect many other rarities are and have been around but just not reported because a knowledgeable birder was not in the right place at the right time.
Adding the Eurasian Wigeon, Blue Grosbeak, and Le Conte’s Sparrow brings the cumulative total of species officially tallied on count day for the 58 Seneca CBCs to 167! The Eared Grebe brings the “count week-only” species total to 4. So for the 58 Seneca CBCs, there have been 171 species on count day or during count week.
Beyond the four new species, our intrepid counters found some other unusual species as well. A third-ever Baltimore Oriole was heard singing in Sector 5 in Montgomery County in the Mckee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area. Our fifth-ever Osprey was seen by counters in Sector 3/4 in Montgomery County from Riley’s Lock sitting on a rock in the Potomac near the Virginia shore. Our fifth-ever Spotted Sandpiper was found by a team in Sector 13 in Loudoun County at the northwest end of Selden Island in the Potomac. Our seventh-ever Sandhill Cranes were spotted in Sector 7 in Montgomery County flying over the Hughes Road Polo Fields. This two-some seems to be visiting for the winter and spending a lot of time in and around Algonkian Regional Park in Loudoun County leading to observations from both Virginia and Maryland. Becoming more regular in recent years but still unusual are a Red-breasted Merganser and a Horned Grebe in Sector 3/4 observed from Riley’s Lock, another Horned Grebe in Sector 15 in Loudoun County observed on Killawog Lake, Ashburn Village, Double-crested Cormorants in Sector 5 in Montgomery County and in Sectors 15 and 16 in Virginia, and a Peregrine Falcon in Sector 3/4.
We also had interesting highs and lows of many other species.
We had a new high count for Wild Turkey – 33 total in four Montgomery County sectors.
Other significant high counts (looking at the last ten years or more of data for this CBC) are for Canada Goose (highest since 2002), Mute Swan (2 tying the previous high in 2002), Hooded Merganser (2nd highest ever), Ring-billed Gull (highest since 2000), Red-breasted Nuthatch (a good year nearly triple the average of the previous 10 years), and Savannah Sparrow (highest since 1983, with most observed in a single-species flock on the edge of the Trump golf course in Sector 16). While not high counts, it was nice to see better numbers of Horned Lark, American Pipit, and Rusty Blackbird after the lows of the last couple of years.
We also had noteworthy low counts this year. Looking back 10 years or more (which includes the rescheduled 2009 count day with difficult, post blizzard, access conditions and fewer participants), this year we had significant low counts for American Black Duck (third lowest ever), Pied-bill Grebe (3 compared to 10-year average of 17), Northern Flicker (lowest since 1977), Eastern Bluebird (lowest since 2003), Hermit Thrush (lowest since 1973), American Robin (lowest since 2008), Yellow-rumped Warbler (lowest since 1977), no Chipping Sparrow (lowest since 2003), White-throated Sparrow (lowest since 1969), and Swamp Sparrow (lowest since 1969). Northern Pintail, Canvasback, Merlin, and Chipping Sparrow were not found on count day and ended up in the “count week” category.
Once again this year, we see the importance of having many sets of eyes in the field in a variety of habitats, with 18 species found in only one sector, and, of those, 9 species represented by sightings of only a single bird. The value of geographic diversity is shown by the 8 species found only in our Virginia sectors and the 23 species found only in Maryland sectors.
I appreciate the folks who diligently wrote up the details of unusual sightings.
Let me end with a little historical perspective. We’ve come a long way since the first Seneca CBC in 1955 which tallied 32 species and 1,305 individual birds on count day. Each of the 57 subsequent reported counts had more species and only one had fewer individual birds on count day. Twenty species have been tallied on all 58 reported Seneca CBCs, and 11 more have been tallied on 57 Seneca CBCs. At the other extreme, 14 species have been tallied on only one Seneca CBC, including our three new count day species.
Thanks again to the many folks who helped make this year’s count a success, and I hope you will be able to join us again for the 2017 count. I would also like to hear from anyone reading this who is interested in joining the 2017 count for the first time. Save the date – Sunday, December 17. Let me know if you have any questions about the count or the results or would like to join us in December.
Sunday, November 27 2016, Lilypons and Surrounding Area
Leader – Clive Harris A dozen birders gathered early at the gate to Lilypons for this perennially popular walk. We enjoyed decent weather conditions throughout the morning. We found 44 species on the property. This included two American Tree Sparrows that popped up in a mixed sparrow flock. Unfortunately not everybody got on these birds. Another nice sighting was of 3 Rusty Blackbirds who showed well in trees next to the large impoundment near the house. Other than that we did not find anything unusual or out of season but did come across most of the expected birds at this time of year, including American Kestrel, both kinglets, and a total of 8 sparrow species. The latter included a small flock of White-crowned Sparrows seen next to the leader’s car as we were concluding our trip. As always we are appreciative of the owners for continuing to allow birders access to this property. After finishing our tour of Lilypons we did a quick inspection of the fields at the corner of Oland Rd and Route 85. We saw a flock of 16 Horned Lark in flight over the fields. However at that time the large flocks of Lark had not yet arrived and so we were out of luck in our quest for Lapland Longspur. After the end of the trip the leader made a dash up to Harford County for a successful twitch of the Black-throated Gray Warbler while a couple of participants went back to Lilypons and added 2 species to the total for the day, Killdeer and Palm Warbler. This brought us to 48 for the day. See the listing on ebird at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S33446953
Friday, November 11 2016, Sparrow Walk at Blue Mash
Leaders: Linda Friedland and Lydia Schindler. Participants: 9. Species: 30. Sunny and mild but breezy. A very congenial group and a pleasant fall morning but a little light on the birds. The most numerous sparrows were the White-throated. We had good looks at Song and Field, as well as Juncos and Towhees. Just a couple of us glimpsed a Fox Sparrow, which refused to reappear. Flickers were in evidence as were Red-bellied and Pileated Woodpeckers. Other sightings included Eastern Phoebe, both Kinglets, numerous Bluebirds, and a small flock of Waxwings.
Saturday, November 05 2016, Oaks Landfill
Leader: Mark England
Weather: Clear and sunny, temps. 38-50 degrees
Participants: 15 including leader
As usual at this spot, we had good diversity of raptors and sparrows. We started off about 8:15 am. walking the gravel ring road with the sun behind us, and soon found cooperative sparrows sitting up on branches for lengthy views, including Chipping, White-crowned (juvenile), Field, Savannah, and Song. We had less good looks at two Swamp Sparrows and only a few White-throated, surprisingly. We also had some juncos, for an eight-sparrow day. As it got warmer, we started seeing some raptors, including N. Harrier, and Cooper’s, Red-shouldered, and Red-tailed Hawks, though there were no kestrels this day, a fairly common species at the landfill.
The big pond was dried-up from the lack of rain, but at the leachate ponds we did find a lone migrant Ruddy Duck. It was a nice day to be out!
Saturday, October 29 2016, Blackwater Refuge
Leader: Mark England
Weather: Couldn’t be better—sunny, 70’s, no wind!
Participants: 8 including leader.
We convened about 9 am. at the Dorchester County Visitor Center at Sailwinds Park in Cambridge, Md. We saw only a few songbirds, including Yellow-rumped Warblers there, and little on the Choptank, so we headed to other spots along the river hoping for some early waterfowl, but were disappointed to see nary a migrant duck, only cormorants and four species of gulls in various plumages. We did see three Royal Terns on the marina pier however.
After a mini-mart stop on Rt. 16, we headed down Egypt Road, and saw some nice birds, including Savannah and Swamp Sparrows, Eastern Meadowlarks, several low-coursing Northern Harriers, Red-tailed Hawks, the first of many Bald Eagles, and a few American Kestrels, usually distant or in bad light, but one male did perch nicely for scope views. No Horned Larks or Am. Pipits this trip, however. Marta Wagner saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk while the rest of us were in the refuge visitor center.
At Blackwater, we had extended views of a probable family group of juvenile and adult Red-headed Woodpeckers, a few high-up Brown-headed Nuthatches, and the usual Forster’s Terns. There were no pelicans around, but we did have some good scope views of some shorebirds, included 3 Pectoral Sandpipers, a few Dunlin and Greater Yellowlegs, and a single Semipalmated Sandpiper and Black-bellied Plover. As on the Choptank, there were no ducks at all except two American Black Ducks, probably due to the warm weather further north. A few of us went over to Shorters’ Wharf Road to view the vast saltmarsh, but seeing only a few more eagles and another harrier, we headed for home before sundown.
Sunday, September 25 2016, Pennyfield to Violette's "Bird Stalk"
Leader: Jim Nelson. Participants: 10, including leader. Weather: A lovely sunny day with temps rising from 50’s to 60’s. Total species: 40. This walk is for folks who generally cannot get out as early. We met at Violette’s Lock at 9:00 (birding around the parking lot as everyone gathered), carpooled down to Pennyfield Lock, and then walked upstream along the C&O Canal towpath back to Violette’s, ending at noon. The total species count was much better than last year in spite of the low numbers of land birds (few warblers and no sparrows or orioles). The sustained dry weather meant the second impoundment had only a little water and mud that failed to attract shorebirds, waterfowl, and large waders (just 2 Solitary Sandpipers). Highlights were Blue-winged Teal on the River, a kettle of Broad-winged Hawks, 2 Red-shouldered Hawks, a Cooper’s Hawk, an Osprey, 2 Bald Eagles, 2 Great Egrets in the River, Northern Parula, Magnolia, Yellow-rumped, and Black-throated Green Warblers, Scarlet Tanager, and a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The complete checklists from the walk can be viewed in eBird at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S31752880 and at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S31753123
Saturday, September 10 2016, Jug Bay Natural Area, Prince Georges County
Leaders: Greg Kearns, John Bjerke, Participants: 20, Species: at least 42
This annual trip by Audubon Naturalist Society and MBC is a pontoon boat tour expertly guided by Greg Kearns. The goal is Sora and we were successful. The weather was hot and humid and the low tide was running higher than normal thanks, in part, to lingering effects of Tropical Storm Hermine. We saw at least 8 Soras, most of them juveniles. At least 4 other Soras were heard. There were few mudflats so some patience was required in getting views of birds in the heavy stands of wild rice and cattails. Other highlights included hundreds of Tree Swallows in a migration flock, many sightings of Wood Duck, several Ospreys, a few Bald Eagles, one Northern Harrier, and a very brief view of a Peregrine Falcon harassing a small group of Caspian Terns. We saw only one Canada Goose, a welcome relief from the hundreds that devastated the wild rice stands at Jug Bay in the 1990s. Thanks to very hard work by Greg and his teams over the years the rice is back.
Sunday, May 08 2016, Izaak Walton League, B-CC Chapter, Conservation Farm.
Leader: Jim Nelson. Participants: 9. Weather: Lovely sunny morning after days of rain, temperature in the 50's and 60's. Once again, thanks to Club member Jim Tate, our group enjoyed access to this prime private property near Poolesville with a great mix of habitats. A League member acted as our escort. Overall we tallied an amazing 75 species well ahead of 2015's 44 species and 2014's 57. Many of our birds were heard only, and not everyone got to see or hear each species (including the leader). We had a good array of warblers -- Common Yellowthroat, Northern Parula, Yellow-rumped, Prairie, Black-throated Blue (male and female side by side), Black-throated Green, Magnolia, Nashville, Chestnut-sided, Cape May, Blackpoll (a nice posing male), and Yellow. Other good finds , Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Wood and Swainson's Thrushes, Ruby-throated Hummingbird (always harder to find away from feeders), Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian and Great-crested Flycatchers, and singing Field Sparrows. Special treats were a heard Wild Turkey, a flyover juvenile Northern Harrier, a Common Raven, and a singing Grasshopper Sparrow, all seen or heard while we stood in one place in an open field. Driving to the meeting point, one participant heard Bobolink in a field on the property, and the leader saw two Eastern Meadowlarks from the entrance road. The total eBird species list for this "hot spot" now stands at 126 species, 7 of which were added on this trip. The eBird checklist for the trip, complete with photos, can be viewed at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S29492619.
Tuesday, May 03 2016, Rock Creek Park
Leader: Wallace Kornack. Due to overcast conditions we decided to move from the Ridge to the Maintenance Yard. On the way one of the tour members spotted an early Yellow Warbler and a Baltimore Oriole. In the Maintenance Yard, we enjoyed hearing calls from an Ovenbird and Wood Thrush while searching and finding several Yellow-rumped Warblers and a Chestnut -sided Warbler. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks called and eventually a female and a brightly colored male came into view. At the Nature Center, we heard and saw Black-and-white, Black-throated Blue, Yellow-rumped warblers as well as a Northern Parula and Eastern Kingbird. We then proceeded to the Dog Run where we spotted a Scarlet Tanager and a Common Loon flying over. To complete the tour, we returned to the Ridge where other birders reported seeing numerous warblers. At the Ridge, we added Black-throated Blue, Blue-winged , Yellow-rumped warblers and heard a Blackpoll Warbler and an Ovenbird.
Sunday, May 01 2016, Field Trip to Occoquan Bay NWR. Participants: 5 Species: 65
Three hardy persons joined leaders Gerry Hawkins and Mike Bowen on a field trip to Occoquan Bay NWR in Woodbridge, VA on Sunday, May 1. Persistent rain kept some potential participants dry by staying home, but despite the damp and gloom the trip had lots of species and lots of highlights. As usual on this trip, we had nice views of Prairie and Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Prothonotaries, and Yellow-breasted Chats, all breeders at the refuge, but the best of our 12 species of warblers was a singing Canada Warbler at eye level that does not breed there. Orchard Orioles were prominent singers all over the refuge, and Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, swallows and Swifts were also numerous and ever-present. We had 8 Ospreys and "only" one Bald Eagle. One Horned Grebe, one Wood Duck and 11 Ruddy Ducks rounded out the waterfowl. No rails this year, though. Next year we hope for better weather and even more warblers!
Saturday, April 23 2016, Blue Mash Nature Trail
Blue Mash Nature Trail and adjacent Oaks Landfill (closed), April 23. Leader: Mark England. Participants: 12. Weather: Wet! We started at Blue Mash, but only got to the end of the gravel road before the clouds burst and we retreated to our cars. We decided to go directly to the nearby Oaks Landfill and do some car birding, hoping the rain would eventually stop, but it never really did till about noon. Despite the steady rain, our hardy group saw some nice birds, particularly at the landfill. As we drove toward the large pond, we saw two Wild Turkeys in the landfill brush, then watched them fly across the pond to Blue Mash. In the pond we saw Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Ducks, Solitary Sandpiper, and Greater Yellowlegs. In one of the leachate ponds visible only inside the landfill we had a female Bufflehead, three Blue-winged Teal, and a Spotted Sandpiper, seen by some. At the top of the landfill, we had about eight Savannah Sparrows feeding in the road. Surprisingly, we had no raptors at the landfill (where there is almost always something), but I attributed it to the inclement weather. When the skies finally cleared a little around noon, a few of us well-soaked diehards went back to Blue Mash and picked up a few other species, including Prairie Warbler, Pine Warbler (Scott Young), immature White-crowned Sparrow, and a Red-shouldered Hawk, our only raptor for the day. Total species seen was 41, but there was a probable Rose-breasted Grosbeak that got away before a positive identification could be made.
Sunday, April 10 2016, Hughes Hollow. Leader: Jim Nelson. Participants: 10.
Weather: Sunny, temps started in the low 20's rising to about 40 by the end. Species: 40. The very cold start and recent string of below-average days kept down the numbers of birds and number of species and changed the mix of species a bit from the same walk the last two years. Birds of note included first-of-year Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Very cooperative Tree and Northern Rough-winged Swallows (first-of-year for many of us) sat in low trees right by the levee posing in the early sun as they waited for aerial insects to start stirring. There were lots of Blue-winged Teal present along with calling Pied-billed Grebes, American Coot, Wood Duck, Northern Shoveler, and Ring-necked Duck. We found a Red-headed Woodpecker in the usual area at the back of the southwest impoundment. We also enjoyed several singing male Ruby-crowned Kinglets, two Brown Thrashers, two Hermit Thrush, Swamp Sparrow, and many singing male American Goldfinch in their breeding finery (the literature talks about this early spring period of goldfinch singing and pairing up even though breeding does not begin until July). It is interesting to see the changes from year to year. Last year's walk on April 12, 2014, yielded 52 species with many more migratory species present, and April 13, 2013, had a comparable 51 species. The eBird checklist for the trip, complete with photos, is at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S28859181.